At UFC 235 this past weekend in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, veteran welterweight fighter Robbie Lawler nearly pounded former Olympic wrestler and 2/1 favorite Ben Askren to a first-round TKO success. But Askren, making his first UFC appearance, managed to survive Lawler's early onslaught of head and body shots, and about two minutes after, at 3:20 in the first round, completed the comeback, ending it with a bulldog choke.
Respected referee Herb Dean watched Lawler's arm dangle limp while he tried to extricate himself in the choke, causing Dean to stop the struggle in what goes down as a submission win for Askren. While controversial and unfortunate for Lawler (along with his backers), it was understandable, and also the popular Lawler immediately turned from aggrieved to praising Dean and expressing his own understanding (transcript here.)
The NFL is the king of U.S sports betting, but combined martial arts offers something different, in some ways much better and more exciting, and really controversial at times, same as every game. Certain events, even for a marginally niche game now in its very first year of a distribution deal on ESPN platforms, can generate the betting handle seen in a good NFL game.
"Everyone understands a fight"
Exposure to more mainstream audiences through ESPN and FOX Sports 1, through an earlier deal, proceeds to raise MMA's profile. To get to this point, UFC and other promotions like Bellator have embraced and understood the engagement value of sports gambling.
"The UFC was on the forefront of sport wagering content," Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, informed Sports Handle. "They chased it by adding chances on the sites on telecasts. And the announcers will cite the gambling favorites during the conflicts. Also they have their own produced gaming show which airs before every pay-per-view on UFC Fight Pass, which assists."
The PGA Tour, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League likewise have"evolved" because the Supreme Court struck down the 1992 federal ban on full scale sports wagering outside Nevada. Each of the commissioners of these leagues currently tout the virtues of greater engagement anyhow sports wagering, fabricate new monetization opportunities, and delight in the ones that have already come.
But while each of those leagues, especially MLB, seek to construct new sports betting bridges using proprietary Statcast figures, as an example, there's no learning curve to start betting on mixed martial arts.
"I think it comes right down to it turned into a struggle. And what I mean by that is that when you're managing a lot of other sports, then you're handling lots of factors, the nuances of soccer, baseball, basketball," veteran MMA writer-reporter Damon Martin told Sports Manage. "And there is a guttural instinct in everyone when it comes down to it.
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