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 it’s announced.

The UFC operates in a similar way, waiting to announce a fighter’s next match based off the result of their previous one.

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 taking bets on it before negotiations have even been completed, with the condition that if the fight doesn’t take place within a certain timeframe, all wagers will be returned.

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 cancelled 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 was named as Jones’ replacement.

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. Every bout is scored by a panel of three judges, 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:

Moneyline
Floyd Mayweather -800
Conor McGregor +500

 

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 just 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!)

Round betting

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 fight ends before the 10th round, the under bettors will win. Importantly, when the total rounds is 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, 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 selecting 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.)

Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor Round Betting
Floyd Mayweather in round one +1500
Conor McGregor in round one +1800
Floyd Mayweather in round two +1600
Conor McGregor in round two +2000
Floyd Mayweather in round three +1600
Conor McGregor in round three +2500
Floyd Mayweather in round four +1800
Conor McGregor in round four +3300
Floyd Mayweather in round five +1800
Conor McGregor in round five +3300

 

MMA/boxing parlays

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 with an event from another fight. However, you can’t parlay two events from the same fight together, like the Mayweather moneyline (-800) and Mayweather winning in round three (+1600).

You can place single bets on both of those outcomes at one sportsbook, but you cannot tie them together in a parlay.