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Bettors ‘obsessed’ with YouTuber vs. UFC fight

UFC president Dana White has repeatedly said he would bet $1 million on former MMA champion Ben Askren to beat YouTuber Jake Paul in their boxing match.

No six- or seven-figure wagers were reported by Las Vegas sportsbooks as of Friday. But there was still plenty of action on the eight-round cruiserweight fight scheduled for Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“This fight probably will be the most heavily bet event of the weekend,” Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said. “And it may be the most heavily bet fight of the first half of 2021.

“Even though it started as kind of a joke, we’re treating it like a major fight and it’s being bet like a major fight.”

William Hill also reported writing a ton of business on the bout.

“People are obsessed with this fight,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “It’s being bet like a really good main event in the UFC.”

Bettors have mostly pounded Paul, who the Westgate opened as a -175 favorite on Feb. 6 and quickly moved to -210 after taking a bet on him from a respected player. Paul dipped from -180 to -160 over Askren (+140) on Friday. The total is 5½.

William Hill took a $25,000 parlay that includes Paul and the Westgate took multiple $9,000 wagers on Paul, who knocked out former NBA slam dunk champion Nate Robinson in November to improve to 2-0 with two KOs as a pro boxer.

“We definitely need Askren right now for a decent decision,” Murray said.

William Hill and BetMGM also needed the underdog as of Friday.

“We need Askren as the price has gone from -120 to -195,” MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback said before it dropped to -175. “A decent-size decision.”

Circa sportsbook director Matthew Metcalf said they needed Paul slightly.

“Good two-way action. Just bumped limits to $10,000 on app,” he said. “Expect to see some big Paul bets (Saturday) so may raise limits again.”

Askren is a former Olympic wrestler and two-time NCAA Division I national champion. He was the Bellator and ONE welterweight champ before competing in the UFC. He retired in 2019 with a career record of 19-2-1.

“He was a very good UFC fighter but more of a wrestling, submission specialist. He was not a standup boxer,” Bogdanovich said. “I guess that’s why they’re betting against him.”

Murray said there are strong opinions for both fighters.

“There are guys I really respect telling me Askren is going to win easily and guys I respect telling me Paul’s going to knock him out immediately,” he said. “People are very confident both guys are going to win.”

Askren said betting on this fight is very risky.

“As a gambler, the fight that I want to bet on are the ones where I’m like, ‘I’ve seen these dudes fight 20 times. I know exactly what they’re going to do. I understand both their strengths and both their weaknesses, and I understand how they fit together,’ right?” he said. “I don’t actually gamble that much anymore, I used to gamble quite a bit. And I would win quite a bit. But this one, there’s so many unknowns.

“There’s literally so many unknowns. So if you’re gambling, you just love the gamble, which, hey, gambling makes everything more fun. So why not?”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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