First it was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who voiced his opinion on sports betting, but UFC Executive Vice President and COO Lawrence Epstein recently came out and agreed with him that legalized, regulated wagering within the United States can only help professional organizations put out a better product for their customers – the fans who support them. Epstein believes legalized sports betting would ensure competition is fair and allow fans to enjoy events without wondering whether or not they are fixed.
This is a very valid point, especially since the MMA-powered UFC requires individual fighters to pass drug tests and meet health standards in order to compete. The UFC has tried to do everything the right way even if it means cancelling bouts and risking financial loss in the process. In 2014 alone, the UFC has had to postpone many high-profile fights, including championship bouts, in order protect their employees.
UFC President Dana White has long been an advocate of sports betting, often quoting MMA odds on his Twitter account and discussing them in interviews. He is a huge fan of boxing and has worked hard to make MMA the most popular combat sport in the world. White realizes that the interest in MMA is fueled by betting on matchups, and he knows allowing fighters to participate without following the rules hurts the integrity of the sport.
With the UFC headquartered in Las Vegas, betting on MMA has never been an issue there. But as the organization continues to grow, expanding across the country and around the world, the popularity of the sport could be even greater if wagering was allowed in all areas where the events are hosted, particularly the U.S.
The big difference between the UFC and other major sports leagues though is that the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB are ruled mostly by parties who still think betting is a negative influence without understanding and/or acknowledging the positive impact it can provide for them and their fans. The UFC embraces sports betting because it was founded in an environment where it is welcome. And Silver is one of the very few from a major team-based league who has publicly stated his support for it. It’s no surprise that the UFC backs betting. The question is, will other league leaders follow Silver and Epstein?