As some leagues continue to warm up to legal sports betting, UFC is tightening down a bit.
The UFC sent a memo to its fighters Monday highlighting a change in its conduct policy that prohibits athletes, their families, coaches and team members from taking part in sports betting on UFC fights. Yahoo Sports first reported the news.
UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell wrote in the memo the organization received guidance from regulators it should prohibit its athletes from betting on fights. The new code is directly beneath the prohibition on fixing matches.
“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 prohibitions on sports betting in play
The new UFC update stays in line with regulations of states that ban athletes from betting on their sports. There is a bit of a gray area when it comes to contractor athletes like MMA fighters and golfers compared to team sports athletes.
“As gaming has grown nationwide, we’ve been in contact with the overwhelming majority of regulatory bodies,” Campbell told Yahoo Sports. “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.”
If an athlete breaches the code of conduct, penalties could include the following:
- Contractual penalties
- Ineligibility for performance payments
- Removal from the fight or promotion
UFC sports betting sponsorships OK
MMA fights can be a popular draw for sportsbooks, and as such sportsbooks flock to MMA organizations like UFC. Earlier this year, UFC expanded its partnership with DraftKings as well as Stake.comits official betting partner in Latin America.
Fighters can maintain current sports betting partnerships and continue courting new ones, according to the memo. The organization will also allow fighters with sportsbook deals to keep making 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 in accordance with applicable law.”
UFC owner deepening sports betting ties
This change comes after Endeavorwhich owns UFC, closed its $800 million acquisition of the OpenBet sports betting platform in September. The price was $400 million lower than the original $1.2 billion Endeavor agreed to with Light & Wonder (formerly Scientific Games) last year.
Along with the MMA promoter, Endeavor also owns sports data and content company IMG Arena. The parent company hopes to create synergies between its holdings to boost its offerings.
“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.
Athlete issues in sports betting
In the past, some fighters publicly touted their betting on UFC matches, like Derek Brunson last month. Connor McGregor once even tried to bet with UFC President Dana White before a fight in 2015though that predates the legal sports betting era throughout the country.
In March, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season after betting on NFL games in 2021.
In 2019, the NFL suspended Arizona Cardinals player Josh Shaw for betting on games.