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UFC’s First Gambling Product Creates New Options for Fight Fans

UFC’s First Gambling Product Creates New Options for Fight Fans

  • UFC Fight Centre was built with fellow Endeavor unit IMG Arena
  • Product to be integrated alongside sportsbooks’ other products
UFC 243: Whittaker v Adesanya

Photographer: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Mixed-martial arts promoter UFC is debuting its first live-betting product, an attempt to capitalize on the growing sports gambling market and change the way people wager on fights.

UFC, part of Endeavor Group Holdings Inc., is launching UFC Event Centre in partnership with IMG Arena, another wholly owned Endeavor unit. The new product will take official data from UFC, plus logos, photos and fighter bios, and create a full suite of gambling options for betting operators to incorporate into their apps and sportsbooks.

The product will feature more than 50 betting opportunities per bout, including 20 new types of wagers updated in real time. These live, or in-game, bets are a lucrative area of betting, but they’ve been less prevalent in MMA because the action is fluid and many of the statistics are subjective.

“In-game betting is the fastest-growing part of the sports-gaming industry,” said Lawrence Epstein, UFC’s chief operating officer. “Some of the stuff we’re doing is stuff that hasn’t been done with respect to UFC in the past.”

Live Betting

UFC currently trails other sports in live betting. IMG Arena said that only 8% of bets placed on UFC are done after the bout starts; in tennis, it’s 70%. The Event Centre aims to help that imbalance.

The new options will include odds on things like the number of take-down attempts, whether a fighter will get knocked down, total strikes landed, and the amount of time a fighter spends on the mat.

relates to UFC’s First Gambling Product Creates New Options for Fight Fans

UFC and IMG Arena live-betting app.

Source: UFC

Though almost every U.S. sports entity is trying to capitalize on gambling, Las Vegas-based UFC’s approach is different from its peers’. Leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLB have crafted deals with data companies to create betting products, and separate marketing deals with sportsbooks to license their logos. UFC has chosen to do it all in one package.

The product was developed by IMG Arena, formerly IMG Gaming, which acts as a middleman between sports organizations and betting operators. Its traditional sports partners include tennis’s ATP World Tour and golf’s PGA Tour, and it works with more than 300 operators around the world.

‘Sweet Spot’

“The demographic of the UFC fan is right in a sportsbook’s sweet spot, in the context of men aged 21 to 44,” said Freddie Longe, executive vice president and managing director of IMG Arena.

About a third of UFC fans regularly visit gambling websites, according to the promoter. Epstein said the sport further lends itself to wagering because there’s no off-season. While other sports typically go dark for months at a time, UFC runs year-round.

Sportsbooks that want to use the new UFC offering will pay a licensing fee for the software, and a share of gross gaming yield for access to the data, Longe said. Specifics on the share and the fee weren’t provided.

The goal for UFC, which Endeavor bought in 2016 for about $4 billion, is to deepen its connection with current fans and attract new ones. Epstein said he has witnessed firsthand how gambling availability drives interest.

“It’s fun to go to a Vegas sportsbook at 11 o’clock at night and watch everybody go crazy over the University of Hawaii game, which no one would care about but for the fact that it’s the only college-football game left,” he said. “We’re for anything that increases fan engagement.”