weather icon Clear

UFC’s popularity reaches betting windows

Initially slow to catch on at sports books, Ultimate Fighting Championship events are gaining steam with mainstream bettors, especially when Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell is involved.

“Anytime Liddell fights, it kind of takes on that rock star atmosphere,” MGM Mirage sports book director Robert Walker said.

“His style is unique. He hits you once and that’s it. He’s an exciting fighter, and certainly the sport is going through the roof right now.”

Liddell closed as a minus-170 favorite over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in their light heavyweight title bout Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden.

Jackson rewarded underdog bettors by making quick work of Liddell, stopping him with a first-round knockout and stunning the crowd of 14,728.

Walker said action was strong on both fighters, with the biggest bets — in the $30,000 range — coming in on Liddell, and the ticket count favoring Jackson by a 2-to-1 ratio. Liddell opened as a minus-280 favorite, but the line quickly dropped.

“It kind of follows the line of boxing. In big fights, we need the favorite to win,” Walker said. “Your smaller bettors just don’t want to lay $20 to win $10. We knew we would get some play on the ‘dog, but Liddell is such a popular fighter.”

Liddell (20-4) had won seven straight by knockout or TKO, including two wins apiece over Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. The only loss of his career he has not avenged was to Jackson in Japan in 2003.

Walker said the wagering also was good on the other four fights on the main card. There were three underdog winners, two of them significant.

Light heavyweight Houston Alexander was impressive in knocking out Keith Jardine in the first round. Jardine dropped from a minus-550 favorite to minus-400.

Kalib Starnes won a unanimous decision over minus-260 favorite Chris Leben in a middleweight fight.

Karo Parisyan delivered as a minus-260 favorite, taking a unanimous decision over Josh Burkmann in a welterweight bout.

Walker said the handle on Liddell-Jackson did not approach what MGM books wrote on the May 5 boxing megafight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather at the Grand Garden.

But mixed martial arts routinely surpasses boxing in the level of brutality and excitement.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times, boxing needs to make some changes,” said Walker, citing a desire for open scoring. “It’s so hard to figure out how the judges score the fight.

“I think that’s what’s so attractive about the UFC is it rarely goes to decision and it’s usually not controversial. It’s just so much better from that standpoint.”

Walker called De La Hoya-Mayweather — won by Mayweather in a split decision — “like a mini-Super Bowl for us” in regards to wagering.

“UFC is the new thing and I don’t see it subsiding. I think it’s going to get better,” Walker said. “People know about these fighters. It’s huge right now.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Dana White signs four fighters to the UFC - Video
Four fighters were put under contract with the UFC following their performances at Dana White's Contender Series on Tuesday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Contender Series fighters react to being signed to the UFC
After making history as the first batch of winners to all earn contracts following their performances at Dana White's Contender Series, the fighters react to making it to the UFC.
Dana White signs all five winners at Contender Series
For the first time in the three-season history of Dana White's Contender Series, every winning fighter earned a UFC contract. Maki Pitolo, Joe Solecki, Antonio Trocoli, Hunter Azure and Jonathan Pearce impressed the UFC brass and were awarded contracts by the UFC president.
Jones says he was confident he secured a win over Santos at UFC 239 - Video
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones continued his reign by taking a split decision victory over Thiago Santos at UFC 239. He discusses the close call and entertains the idea of a trilogy bout with Daniel Cormier. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 recap: Jones and Nunes retain their titles - VIDEO
Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes both retained their titles at UFC 239. Jones took a decision over Thiago Santos in the main event and Nunes scored a first-round knockout of Holly Holm. Jorge Masvidal also made promotional history on July 6 by scoring a 5-second knockout over Ben Askren. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amanda Nunes on her win over Holly Holm at UFC 239 - Video
Amanda Nunes talks about continuing her reign as a two-division champion in the UFC after defeating Holly Holm with a head kick in the first round of their title bout at UFC 239. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239: Masvidal makes UFC history with 5-second knockout - Video
Jorge Masvidal discusses his history-making knockout of Ben Askren at UFC 239 and makes his case for a shot at the welterweight title next. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fighters at UFC 239 react to the 7.1 earthquake - Video
Fighters at UFC 239 talk about what they experienced when the 7.1 earthquake was felt in Las Vegas on Friday night. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Ceremonial Weigh-in Staredowns - Video
All fighters competing at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena faced off against each other one last time before their bouts take place. In the main event, Jon Jones will put his light heavyweight belt on the line against Thiago Santos. In the co-main event, Amanda Nunes will look to continue her reign as the women's bantamweight champion when she takes on Holly Holm.
UFC 239: Jon Jones says he wants to make a statement - VIDEO
Prior to UFC 239, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones says he's trying to challenge himself, set his own records to establish his legacy and explains how he's become comfortable with where he is in his career. He will put his title on the line in the main event against Thiago Santos. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Official Weigh-in Results
All 24 fighters competing at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena made weight at the official weigh-in at the New York-New York hotel-casino on Friday. The main event features UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones putting his belt on the line against Thiago Santos. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Preview: Jones vs. Santos
Prior to UFC 239, the Review-Journal's Adam Hill and Heidi Fang break down the main event between Jon Jones and Thiago Santos for the light heavyweight title, the co-main championship tilt between Holly Holm and reigning bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes, and preview a feature bout between Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 media day: Masvidal says he has faced tougher competition than Askren
Ahead of facing rising UFC welterweight Ben Askren, promotional veteran Jorge Masvidal says he's faced tougher opponents in the past. Askren says don't be shocked by his approach to the fight at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 open workouts: Jones thanks fans for support through his dark times
At UFC 239 open workouts, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones thanked fans for their support during his "controversial moments" and says he wants to be more active through 2020. His challenger Thiago Santos says he will "shock the world" on July 6 and be the new division champion. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 open workouts: Holm wants to shock her naysayers
Holly Holm will look to reclaim the UFC women's bantamweight title when she faces two-division champion Amanda Nunes in the co-main event of UFC 239 at the T-Mobile Arena on July 6. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
White: I'm looking for different things on this show - VIDEO
UFC president Dana White spoke with media following the second episode of the third season of his show "Dana White's Contender Series". He explained why he signed the two fighters he did after their performances and discussed the heat he's taking for not signing Brendan Loughnane last week. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC's Francis Ngannou says he never doubted himself after losses - Video
UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou will face Junior dos Santos at UFC on ESPN 3 in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 29 in a bout that could determine the next title contender. After losing in a title bout to Stipe Miocic in 2018, Ngannou says he never doubted himself. He also talks about meeting former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Weili Zhang seeks UFC belt, history

The 30-year-old could become the first Chinese fighter to win a UFC title when she faces Jessica Andrade for the women’s strawweight title on Saturday