The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) sits atop the world of mixed martial arts as the sport’s most popular promotion. And this past Monday, the company sent its athletes a memo highlighting a newly instated conduct policy that prohibits those involved from participating in sports wagering on UFC fights. The memo states that fighters, coaches, and their families cannot place bets on UFC contests.
Hunter Campbell, Chief Business Officer of the UFC, stated that the company received guidance from regulators that athletes should be prohibited from betting on fights.
“In order to assist our athletes in understanding their obligations under the laws of the majority of states in which sports betting is permitted, and in further support of these integrity measures, UFC has incorporated a wagering prohibition into the UFC Athlete Conduct Policy expressly prohibiting athletes from wagering on any UFC match,” Campbell wrote, per Yahoo.
State Laws and the Prohibitions on Sports Betting
The latest sports betting update presented by UFC officials falls under the guidance of states that ban athletes from wagering on their sports. There has previously been a gray area for contractor athletes like MMA fighters and golfers instead of team sports athletes.
“As gaming has grown nationwide, we’ve been in contact with the overwhelming majority of regulatory bodies,” Campbell told Yahoo. “It has been made clear to us that a large percentage of regulatory bodies prohibit what they would consider inside betting with people who are active participants in the sports that they bet.”
UFC fighters who decide to break the code of conduct would face the following penalties:
• Contractual penalties
• Ineligibility for performance payments
• Removal from the fight or promotion
Sports Betting Sponsorship Gets a Thumbs Up
MMA events draw colossal attention from the best sportsbooks, naturally causing sportsbooks to focus on promotions like the UFC. Earlier in 2022, UFC strengthened its relationship with DraftKings and Stake.com.
Fighters can continue to have sports betting partnerships, as the memo states. In addition, fighters working alongside sportsbooks can still make picks on fights.
“This policy does not prohibit UFC athletes from entering into sponsorship agreements with sports betting companies,” the memo reads. “UFC athletes may continue to pursue such sponsorships per applicable law.”
UFC and Sports Betting Are Growing Closer
It should be no surprise that fighters have been prohibited from betting on MMA. Endeavor owns the UFC and purchased the OpenBet sports betting platform in September.
In addition, Endeavor owns IMG Arena, a sports data and content company.
“We’ll look to create and unlock meaningful value for our rights holder and sportsbook customers, helping deliver the most compelling offerings for sports fans globally,” Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel said last month.
The Problem With Athletes and Sports Betting
Previously, fighters publicly revealed their willingness to bet on UFC fights, as middleweight contender Derek Brunson did last September. Conor McGregor also offered to bet with UFC President Dana during the lead-up to a UFC event in 2015.
Athletes like Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons were suspended for the entire 2022 NFL season after wagering on games in 2021.
The NFL also suspended Arizona Cardinals player Josh Shaw for betting on football. These bans have set a precedent of what UFC athletes could expect if they gamble on themselves or other fighters.