UFC Bans Fighters from Betting on Their Sport; Other Leagues Deal With Dilemma

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Khamzat Chimaev (right) fights Kevin Holland at UFC 279 (AP Photo/John Locher)

The UFC has banned competitors and team members from betting on fights whether they are involved in them or not, per a memo sent Monday by Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell.

“In light of clear direction that we have received from regulators responsible for the regulated sports betting industry in the United States, we are compelled at this time to recognize in the UFC Athlete Conduct Policy certain restrictions relating to wagering by our athletes, members of their teams and certain others,” Campbell wrote.

UFC competitors are still allowed to secure sponsorships with sports betting companies and serve in the role of brand ambassadors.

Last year, UFC fighter Justin Jaynes very publicly revealed that he bet $25,000 — his entire fight paycheck — on himself to beat Charles Rosa at UFC Vegas 30. Rosa won in a split decision. 

Boxers have been known to bet on themselves, too.

It’s hard to forget the much ballyhooed 2017 fight between Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor, when Mayweather told Jimmy Kimmel (and thus the world) that he would be betting on himself prior to the bout.

Mayweather also said he tried to bet $400,000 on the fight ending Under 9.5 rounds (-200) at the M Resort sportsbook in Las Vegas, but he was reportedly denied. According to ESPN, “there were concerns over the legality of a fighter betting on anything other than a straight win.”

Mayweather was declared the winner of the fight by TKO in the 10th round.  

With the UFC now falling in line by banning bets made by its competitors, let’s examine how other sports leagues are dealing with this dilemma.    

What Rules Govern Other Sports? 

The Big Four of professional sports in the US — NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL — all prohibit competitors from betting on games in their respective leagues. Even if you’re twenty-something, you’ve likely heard the story of Pete Rose. If not, check out this informative piece by Gaming Today colleague Brant James. 

Meanwhile, Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley is currently serving a suspension for the entire 2022 season after betting on NFL games last year. But there are no restrictions on NFL players when it comes to betting on other sports. In fact, per a league spokesperson, it’s a right protected by the NFLPA.  

While the PGA Tour has long prohibited its players from betting on Tour-related events, news surfaced this summer that Phil Mickelson bet on himself in several tournaments. Mickelson, now competing (and not very well) on the LIV Tour, later admitted to having a sports gambling addiction.

Serving under the auspices of the International Tennis Federation, the International Tennis Integrity Association (ITIA) is the anti-corruption body for worldwide professional tennis. The ITIA’s policy on players betting on matches is crystal clear: 

“You are not allowed to bet on tennis, at anytime, anywhere in the world, regardless of whether or not you are involved in the event.”

It’s hard to find much too much in the way of gray (area) there. The NHL takes a similar stance in its “Standard Club Rules” forbidding players to bet on any NHL game. 

Former San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, who filed for bankruptcy in early 2021, cited $1.5 million in gambling debts as part of those proceedings. Kane was publicly accused of betting on and even helping to throw games by his estranged and now ex-wife, Deanna, on Instagram.  

The NHL concluded an extensive investigation last September and “found no evidence to support those allegations, or allegations that Mr. Kane made any effort to negatively impact his own Club’s games.”

Last Bastion of Sports Betting for Actual Competitors?

Is there any sport left that allows its participants to bet on their own competition? We’re glad you asked, and yes, horse racing does allow jockeys to wager on races with restrictions varying by state.

Let’s use Maryland as our example. The official statute reads: “On a day that a jockey is scheduled to ride, the jockey may not bet on any race except:  (1) To win on a horse which the jockey is scheduled to ride; (2) Through the owner or trainer of that horse.”

That seems entirely fair. But as long as human beings remain flawed — no sign of that stopping anytime soon — there will always be controversies amplified worldwide by social media. Early this year, the Pennsylvania Racing Commission banned jockey Mychel Sanchez for 60 days. Sanchez committed the cardinal sin of betting against himself on several occasions using a TVG account.

Sports betting is a powerful force both in terms of business and personal accountability. As much as leagues try to prevent transgressions by participants, it’s always going to be up to the players to preserve the integrity of competition. 

Also read: NHL Star Connor McDavid’s BetMGM Ad a Rarity Despite Fading Sports Betting Stigma

About the Author
Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson

Writer & Contributor
Kris Johnson is a Senior Writer at Gaming Today with more than 15 years of experience as a sports journalist. Kris' work has appeared in Sports Business Daily, Sports Business Journal, NASCAR Illustrated, and more. Kris also authored a sports betting novel entitled The Endgame.

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