UFC president Dana White can’t seem to decide if the UFC should be concerned about the ongoing investigations regarding betting irregularities surrounding a November 5 UFC fight between Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke.
In early December, White told ESPN that the prospect of fight fixing in the UFC was a “huge concern. … Now that there’s an investigation and it could be possible that it happened, yeah.”
A few days later, White, appearing at the UFC 282 post-fight press conference, struck a different tone when asked about his level of worry about the integrity of the sport of MMA and the UFC regarding the investigations.
“Zero,” said White. “I’m not worried about it at all. We let these guys know not to bet on fights. Do you know what the outcome of this is? If I penalize them, you get cut. They’re gonna go to f—ng federal prison. Federal f—ng prison.”
While the UFC might not be the focus of the investigations — that would be MMA coach James Krause and (now) former UFC fighter Darrick Minner — the UFC should be very concerned about those probes — for several reasons.
During White’s conversation with ESPN, he attempted to paint the UFC as an innocent bystander in this scandal. White said, “We’ve always told the fighters, as all the gambling stuff started to heat up, stay away from gambling,” White said. “Do you know how stupid you have to be to get involved in something like that?”
While the UFC may have told the UFC fighters to stay away from betting, the promotion waited until this year to take a substantive step toward preventing fighters from betting on UFC fights. Even when announcing the ban, White said the move was “more optics than anything.”
The UFC could have followed the lead of major sports leagues like the NFL and outright banned its athletes from betting on UFC fights at any time. Not doing so until October 2022, shows how seriously it took the message it sent to fighters when it told them to “stay away” from gambling.
If the UFC did tell fighters to “stay away” from gambling, the message has not always seemed to get through. Apart from James Krause and the others on his team boasting about their gambling earnings, here are a few of the countless instances where fighters publicly announce their bets, and even had some of these aired on UFC’s media events and fight night broadcasts through the years:
In 2011, Diego Sanchez told ESPN that he had bet $100 on Tito Ortiz to defeat Ryan Bader.
In 2018, James Vick told MMA Junkie he was waiting until the last minute to bet on himself against Justin Gaethje.
In 2019, Anthony Rocco Martin took a photo of seven losing betting slips worth $9,600 from UFC 245. Martin wrote that he was going to stick to betting on himself in the future.
So in other words. I’ll stick to betting on myself. And I need a fight lmao pic.twitter.com/UL9s90TlFV
— Anthony Rocco Martin (@TonyRoccoMartin) December 16, 2019
In 2021, Justin Jaynes said, “I’m putting my entire fight contract on myself, and my coaches are doing that as well. I’m betting close to 25K that I’m winning my fight because that’s how much I believe in myself. This is all in for me, and if I lose this fight, I do not get paid and my coaches do not get paid either. And that won’t be as bad as losing my job of being in the UFC.”
Also in 2021, Alexander Volkanovski’s tweet about betting on Ryan Hall was included on the UFC broadcast.
pretty funny how the UFC used to air tweets from fighters about betting on fights and now it’s totally disallowed lol pic.twitter.com/TESfaipWS0
— Formerly Formerly Neutral (@ManOfShark) December 8, 2022
In May of this year, Eryk Anders, during an official UFC media event said that he had bet on himself in the past and that he planned to put $1,000 on himself at UFC Vegas 55.
UFC Middleweight Eryk Anders said he’s betting $1000 on himself this weekend because he believes the Oddsmakers are disrespecting him at +180
He said he’ll use the winnings as his bar tab Saturday night pic.twitter.com/9Ioun9OV6d
— br_betting (@br_betting) May 19, 2022
Also, the UFC can’t plead ignorance to the possibility of fight fixing. In 2015, the promotion reportedly caught wind of talk of a fix in the fight between Tae Hyun Bang and Leo Kuntz when the line on that fight moved significantly in the hours leading to the event (much like the line in the Nuerdanbieke vs. Minner fight). The movement saw Kuntz go from a slight underdog to as high as a -475 favorite. Bang was eventually given a prison sentence for his involvement in the attempted fix.
The UFC can say that it has taken a serious stance when it comes to gambling and fighters betting on UFC fights and the promotion might even get some fans to believe that fact. It also might successfully get some of the more compliant MMA media to spread the idea that it has taken a hard stance on the subject. However, the promotions actions — or in this case — inactions, speak much louder than its words.
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