Betting combat sports is a different experience compared to betting team sports in major leagues (like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL). Because boxing is decentralized and all fights are negotiated, there’s no definitive schedule you can plan your wagering around. You won’t know who Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent is until an official announcement. The UFC operates in a similar way, waiting to announce a fighter’s future match based on the result of their previous one. Despite this, it’s easy to plan and be successful when you bet on MMA fights, and combat sports at large. There are slight nuances to be taken into consideration between boxing and UFC betting, that’s why knowing how to bet on UFC fights is a vital component before wagering on any of the major upcoming UFC cards.
When are Betting Lines Released?
You will have plenty of time to consider placing a bet, though, as marquee fights will be announced months in advance, and betting lines will be released immediately after that announcement. In some cases, if a truly huge fight is rumored to be taking place (like Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr), sportsbooks will start accepting bets on it before negotiations are even complete. However, these bets come with the condition that if the fight doesn’t take place within a specific timeframe, all wagers will be returned.
Can Bets Be Voided?
Of course, for any fight to have action, both listed fighters must enter the ring for it to count. If one of the listed fighters withdraws and is replaced, all bets made on the initial matchup are void.
If you had bet on Daniel Cormier when he was scheduled to face Jon Jones at UFC 200, your bet would’ve been canceled when Jones was pulled from the card, even though the fighter you bet on (Cormier) was still slated to compete. You would have had to place a new bet on Cormier once Anderson Silva took the spotlight as Jones’ replacement.
The Different Ways You Can Bet on MMA Fights and Combat Sports
As for the types of bets you can make on combat sports, the biggest boxing matches (again, like McGregor/Mayweather and Mayweather/Pacquiao) will have a world of props for you to choose from (which we’ll cover shortly). On the other hand, average fights – even average title fights –won’t offer a ton of different options, though they’ll still have enough to keep you hanging on from the starting bell to the final decision.
MMA / Boxing Moneyline Betting
Two fighters will enter, one will (usually) leave victorious. If you bet on the winner’s moneyline, you’ll win your wager. A panel of three judges score every bout, so even if both fighters are left standing at the end, a decision will be rendered, and one will usually be declared the winner. (Draws are rare, but possible.)
In terms of settling bets, all decisions announced in the ring are final. If a fighter appeals a decision and the ruling is amended down the line, wagers will not be returned.
Even with judges, it is possible to have a fight ruled a draw. If two or more judges score the fight as a draw, it will be declared as such. Or if Judge 1 has the blue corner winning, Judge 2 has the red corner winning, and Judge 3 has it scored a draw, the fight will be ruled a split draw. In all these scenarios, moneyline bets will be void and wagers will be returned.
If one fighter is disqualified, then his opponent will be deemed the winner. If both fighters are disqualified, the fight is ruled a “no contest” and all wagers are returned.
The moneyline odds on boxing matches and MMA fights won’t look much different than the moneyline odds on games in team sports. The two fighters will each be listed with their potential payout next to their name.
Example: Mayweather McGregor Odds
As we’ve gone over elsewhere, the -800 payout for Mayweather indicates that he is the (massive) favorite and that you would have to wager $800 on him just to win $100. Conversely, the +500 payout for McGregor means you could potentially win $500 on only a $100 bet. (Of course, that would require McGregor to win a boxing match – a sport he’s never competed in professionally – against one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in history; so don’t let yourself get blindly tempted by the potential windfall. Make sure you’re carefully considering all your bets!)
On a certain, basic level, total round betting is like game total betting (which you can read about here): bookmakers will set a total number of rounds for the fight, and bettors can select either over or under.
For boxing, fights have a maximum of 12 rounds, but can be as short as three. For MMA, title fights are generally scheduled for five rounds, while every other fight is three rounds.
The rounds total in Mayweather vs. McGregor, which is scheduled for 12 rounds, is at 9.5 right now. If the fight goes into the 10th round, the over bettors will win. If the match ends before the 10th round, the under bettors will win. Importantly, when the total rounds are set as a half number, it does not mean that the fight has to go halfway through that round in order to reach the over. As soon as the next round starts, in this case, the 10th round, the over bettors are winners, even if the fight ends ten seconds into the 10th round.
Similar to total round betting, you can also bet:
- the specific round a fight will end in (and in favor of which fighter), and
- if a fight will “go the distance” (e. go to decision)
For the former, you can generally get decent payouts which reflect the low chance of predicting the exact round correctly.
When betting fights, the more precise your prediction gets, the better the potential payout.
Method of Victory
Since specificity pays, “method of victory” bets are another popular option for betting on MMA fights, especially on very one-sided fights. You can select each fighter to win by KO/TKO or decision in boxing, while some MMA markets give the option of choosing each fighter to win by submission, KO/TKO or decision. You can also bet on the rare occurrence of a draw.
Here’s an example of what that will look like on any given site. (We’ve cropped the table after five rounds to save space; ordinarily, it would list all 12 scheduled rounds.)
Parlay Betting (Multiples Betting)
For bettors looking for a bigger potential payout, it’s popular to parlay a few results from the same card together. (Not sure what I mean by “parlay?” Read this first.) Any moneyline, round or method of victory bet can be parlayed into an event from another fight. However, you can’t parlay two events from the same fight together. An example of this would be the Mayweather moneyline (-800) and Mayweather winning in round three (+1600).
You can place single bets on both of those outcomes at one sportsbook; you cannot tie them together in a parlay.