Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the fastest-growing sport in America and parts of Europe. As the sport gains a hold in the popular culture, it’s become a major market for sports bettors. If you go to Vegas to place a bet on sports in a live sportsbook, you’ll find MMA bets available pretty much year-round. The same is true for online sportsbooks; the biggest and best Web-based sportsbooks have covered the MMA market for a few years now.
Top MMA / UFC Sportsbooks
Up to $250
- Leading US sportsbook
- Fastest payouts
- Best betting interface
Up to $2500
- Solid reputation
- Fast payouts
- Good odds/lines
It’s an exciting sport that’s also difficult to handicap – a single well-landed punch or kick can change the course of the fight. Bettors familiar with wagering on boxing should already be familiar with most of the specifics of betting on this new fighting sport.
If you are a fan of the sport or even if you’ve watched an MMA event or two before, all you need to learn to place confident wagers on MMA matches is a few pieces of information. Here is a guide to the basic of betting on Mixed Martial Arts Events.
The majority of wagers on Mixed Martial Arts events are placed using what’s called a moneyline. Unlike a point spread – the odds format most people are familiar with – a money line requires a wager on the overall winner. It’s a more straightforward way to bet than a point spread.
Here’s an example of odds you may find for an MMA match:
Carlos Condit (-245)
Thiago Alves (+185)
This line indicates that Carlos Condit is the favorite and Alves is the underdog. Condit is listed at -245, which means a successful wager on Condit pays $1 for every $2.45 wagered. In other words, to profit $100 from a wager on Condit, you’d need to wager $245. At +185, a successful bet on Thiago Alves would pay $1.85 for every $1 wagered. That means a $100 wager on Alves would earn $185 if he pulled off the upset.
Though the moneyline is by far the most popular way to wager on MMA fights, a form of over/under bets called match totals are becoming popular. These wagers are essentially proposition bets based on how many rounds a fight lasts. Bookmakers post odds for matches going “over” or “under” a number of rounds. If our Condit vs. Alves fight from above were listed at 2.5, the book is asking you to bet whether you think it will last more than (or fewer than) three rounds.
KO, Submission, or Decision
Another form of wagering becoming popular at online sportsbooks is based on the way a fight ends. It’s a kind of prop bet, too – but it’s hard to say anything across the board about this form of MMA betting, since it’s a little different at every venue that offers it.
You may be asked to select both the overall winner of a fight as well as whether the fight ends in a submission, knockout, or decision. This is exponentially more difficult to pull off, so naturally books offer higher payouts than straight up win bets.
Here’s an example of a line using this format:
Carlos Condit (-245), KO/S/D (-145)
Since it’s equally difficult to predict an ending by knockout, submission, and decision, this line indicates that selecting one of those methods successfully will earn you a much higher payout of 1:1.45.
An additional prop bet sometimes offered is a separate wager that the fight will end in a draw. I’ve seen online sportsbooks offering odds on a draw as high as +1,000.
MMA Betting Tips
Now that you understand the most popular odds and bets available for the MMA market, I think it’s important to share some of the basics I’ve learned. I’ve been wagering on mixed martial arts events for about a year now, and I’ve picked up some wisdom along the way that I wish I’d had at my disposal early on.
Tip #1 – Ignore the prop bets at first.
Conventional wisdom says: “If you understand MMA well you may have a good idea how a fight could go based on each fighters strengths and weaknesses.” I say that’s nonsense. This sport is popular in part because of its volatility. Until you’ve built up some experience, stick to straight-up win wagers.
Tip #2 – Ignore the buzz – avoid wagering on heavy favorites.
The word “parity” gets tossed around a lot in sports journalism – in mixed martial arts, parity has more to do with the rules of the sport than an equal level of talent. A weaker fighter has an equal chance of winning – a single mistake by a world champion can lead to a huge upset, and that happens all the time. A wager on a heavy favorite won’t be worth much anyway – pennies on the dollar, most likely.
Don’t forget that players listed as huge favorites are likely paper tigers. Odds of -200 and higher should be a red flag – it’s probably an unrealistic line. The average Joe MMA bettor just plain-old wants to win, so he bets on favorites in an attempt to do just that, without thinking or researching the fight at all. Don’t be like him.
Tip #3 – Pick your fights carefully.
I am by no means a professional bettor, but even I make sure to avoid over-wagering. My bankroll is meager – just a couple grand per year – but I don’t want to stretch it too thin and potentially lose the whole thing. Remember, the bookmaker is paid to be right, so he usually is. That means you’ll have little to no edge, which is where you make your money as a bettor. My simple rule is – if the odds look too accurate, I don’t bet on the fight.
Professional MMA in America just entered its second decade, but by some reports it has already eclipsed Major League Baseball in terms of TV viewers and active fans. Yes it’s violent. Yes, the athletes perform aggressively. And yeah, the whole “fight inside a cage” thing is pretty extreme. But MMA in general (and the UFC league in particular) is big business. I expect to see more and more betting options for MMA fans in the future.