Mixed martial arts have come a long way since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debuted in 1993 in Denver, Colorado. What started as a spectacle billed as “uncensored and unedited” with no gloves or weight classes has evolved into a polished sport complete with professional athletes, mainstream media coverage and its own rulebook.
MMA betting is now an inseparable part of the sport to such an extent that even the commentators mention the latest UFC betting lines as they discuss upcoming matches and hype the next fight of the night.
So, with that in mind, we present our guide to betting on the UFC online. We’ll start with a look at the best legal MMA betting sites, discuss how the various types of bets work and even dig into the UFC’s own relationship with betting.
Our focus today will be on the UFC in particular, but understand that most legal betting sites also occasionally cover fights from other organizations such as Bellator and ONE Championship among others.
Best UFC Betting Sites
States with Legal UFC Betting
Rough-and-tumble origins aside, the UFC is a fairly tame and well-established sport these days that is not subject to any special gaming restrictions. To put it simply, UFC betting is available anywhere sports betting as a whole is legal.
Below is a map that we keep up to date as additional states introduce and pass sports betting legislation. If you live in one of the states filled with color, you either already have legal sportsbooks nearby or will have them soon.
States with legal sports betting
- Blue: Online/mobile betting is legal
- Green: Land-based sportsbooks only (no online betting)
- Red: UFC betting coming soon; legislation fully passed but waiting for implementation
If you live in a state that has not yet legalized sports betting, your next best option is to consider the fantasy UFC contests hosted by DraftKings. In a fantasy sports contest, you pick a stable of fighters slated to fight on an upcoming card and then rack up points as your fighters land strikes, takedowns, reversals, advance position on the ground and finish fights early.
The better your fantasy team of fighters does on fight night, the more points you accumulate and the higher your ranking in the contest. After the last fight of the night is over, payouts are awarded to the contest entrants who amassed the highest points total for the night.
Fantasy UFC is similar in some ways to regular old sports betting. It’s not quite the same, but being able to put money on the line and then watch your fighters earn points for you in real time does provide a similar sense of having some skin in the game.
The amount of money you can win is no laughing matter, either. DraftKings regularly hosts UFC fantasy contests with top prizes in excess of $50,000. Most importantly, DraftKings is legal in most states.
You can see our DraftKings review for more information and a list of accepted states.
The UFC’s Relationship with Sports Wagering
As a combat sport, MMA lends itself nicely to sports betting just like boxing does. Well before legal sports betting even seemed like a realistic possibility, UFC broadcasters and websites would often refer to fighters as underdogs or favorites and discuss the latest Vegas line on each fighter.
Unlike the other major sports leagues, the UFC was fairly quiet on the whole sports betting issue during the run-up to the Supreme Court decision overturning PASPA. The UFC also broke ranks by not issuing a formal statement after the decision. It was business as normal for the UFC the very next day.
The American Gaming Association has commissioned numerous studies predicting the financial impact of sports betting on the major sports leagues, but no such study has been run on the UFC. As much as we love the UFC, it simply is not a major player in the grand scheme of things and likely has little sway on policy or the direction taken by lawmakers planning to legalize wagering in their states.
Even so, the UFC will see indirect benefits due to increased viewership and direct benefits from gaming companies interested in marketing their services in concert with the UFC. The UFC may not be as big as the other major North American leagues, but it does have millions of fans around the world.
Every study conducted by the AGA looking at the impact of sports betting on other leagues has found that people who bet on sports tend to watch those sports more and consume more sports-related media.
This all results in bigger advertising numbers and income for the leagues. The UFC trails far behind the likes of the NFL and NBA in terms of viewership, but it stands to reason UFC viewership will benefit from the spread of legal sports betting.
Sponsorship deals between the UFC and gaming companies will also benefit the organization with direct infusions of cash. The UFC tends to play its cards close to the vest when it comes to financial matters, so it is difficult to estimate exactly how much benefit these types of deals benefit the league.
One of the first big moves the UFC made to capitalize on legal sports betting came in October 2019 when the organization announced a partnership with IMG Arena to create a live betting product called UFC Event Center.
Together, the UFC and IMG Arena pull official data from the UFC, provide in-play betting markets and logo, and package it all into the UFC Event Center. Sports betting operators are then able to incorporate the package into their own platforms to offer customers a full menu of high-quality UFC betting options.
In terms of sheer numbers, the UFC may also be limited in how many agreements it can realistically form with sports betting companies. The UFC differs from other leagues in that it is not comprised of semi-independent teams all run by different owners.
With each individual fighter competing under the unified UFC banner and prohibited from promoting non-approved brands while participating in UFC events, we probably won’t be seeing as many deals with various companies as we do for the NFL, NBA and other leagues.
Then again, UFC President Dana White is no stranger to gambling. If anyone can work out unique sponsorship deals with gaming companies, it is Mr. White himself. Beyond holding his highest-profile fights in Las Vegas, White is said to be a prolific blackjack player – to the point where he has been banned from several casinos for winning too much money.
Case in point:
Between his own familiarity with gambling and the many relationships he has undoubtedly built with industry insiders, Dana White’s UFC would have little trouble forming unique agreements with a variety of sports betting and gaming companies.
The first such partnership for UFC North America in recent years was a deal with PokerStars announced in December 2018 ahead of the year’s final Pay-Per-View event. The financial terms were never disclosed, but it does show the UFC is willing to work with gaming companies.
How the UFC Stacks Up to Other Sports in Terms of Handle
There is no question MMA betting has grown in popularity over the past 20-odd years in line with the growth of the sport itself, but it still trails behind other mainstream American sports. However, the UFC does have its bright spots with individual events sometimes attracting handle comparable to NFL games.
Estimating total betting handle is more art than science because there is no central database that tracks all wagers taken across the country, but we can look at anecdotal accounts from various individual sportsbooks to form a general sort of picture.
For instance, DraftKings New Jersey reported that a big matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor generated about as much betting handle as an average non-prime-time NFL game. That is not at all a bad benchmark, but keep in mind there are not nearly as many big UFC events as there are NFL games in a given year.
Some Las Vegas sportsbooks have also reported that UFC betting handle has surpassed that of boxing over the years. Marquee boxing matchups such as Mayweather vs. Pacquiao still crush MMA in terms of betting handle, but those are rare.
Here’s what Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook VP of Sports Operations Jay Kornegay told ESPN in 2018 about MMA vs. boxing handle:
“UFC out-handles boxing at a 2-to-1 clip, with boxing being skewed by a few marquee fights. This disparity is widening every year. UFC cards can offer up to 10 matches to wager on, while boxing only offers one to three at most. A lot of boxing undercard matches aren’t worthy for posting on betting boards.”
Kornegay also noted during that interview that an average UFC card takes about as much betting handle as a “solid NFL playoff game.”
In summary, it’s clear the UFC generates a respectable amount of handle on average. We do not have exact numbers, but anecdotal evidence paints a picture of a healthy public interest in UFC betting.
Best UFC Betting Sites
MMA broke into the mainstream a long time ago, so any sportsbook worth your while is bound to offer comprehensive coverage of all major UFC events. Minor events and non-UFC organizations are still hit-or-miss, so that’s worth keeping in mind if you ever like to venture outside the UFC. But for the most part, every sportsbook or betting site accepts MMA wagers.
There is bound to be some amount of opinion involved in ranking the best UFC betting sites, but generally there are three major characteristics that we believe can be fairly applied while still leaving room for personal opinion.
Those key aspects are:
- Licensing status
- Variety of MMA wagers accepted
- Competitiveness of the lines
Now, we’ll look at each of those individually to provide some context.
Ensuring your money is safe and your winnings will be paid promptly is the single most important aspect of choosing an MMA betting site. The only way to ensure these things is to only do business with online sportsbooks that are licensed in your state.
You can see our recommendations for each state on this page. Select your state on that page and you’ll see which sites are legal where you live. Our policy at BettingUSA.com is and always has been to take a strictly legal approach to sports betting. That means any site you see recommended on this website is 100% legal in the United States.
We cannot confidently recommend offshore betting sites due to their lack of regulation and inability to guarantee players’ money is properly managed. Offshore sportsbooks are not subject to the same laws that govern licensed sites back home and that can lead to serious issues down the line.
Secondly, US authorities become increasingly likely to initiate another crackdown on illegal betting sites as additional states pass legislation to authorize sports betting. With considerable tax revenue on the line, states have every incentive to do whatever it takes to protect the domestic industry.
Sticking with legal UFC betting sites will make your life a whole lot simpler. You won’t have to stress over the safety of your funds, you’ll find it easier to deposit and your winnings will be paid much faster.
Variety of MMA Wagers Offered
This may seem like an obvious one, but it is particularly relevant to MMA because we’ve found that some sites only offer basic win/lose wagers while others offer a much deeper variety of wagering types such as round totals, winning round, method of victory and whether or not the fight will go the distance.
You won’t have any trouble finding betting site that offer tons of markets for NFL or NBA game, for example, but MMA doesn’t always receive the same treatment. You will find more action and more opportunities at sites that go above and beyond the norm.
Additionally, we like to see sites cover more organizations than just the UFC. The UFC is far from the only game in town. There’s also the likes of Bellator and ONE Championship that regularly put on great fights.
Competitiveness of the Lines
Competitive MMA odds make a big difference to your bottom line over the long term. If Site A is willing to pay +230 on a fighter while Site B is only offering +200, the choice is obvious. We take note of these things and notice that some sites tend to offer better lines than others.
On that note, you may also want to consider keeping a funded account at two or more sportsbooks so you can price shop prior to booking a bet on any upcoming fight. You will often find little discrepancies in the odds across two different sportsbooks as the oddsmakers at each site adjust the odds in order to account for how much money is coming in on each fighter.
How to Bet on MMA Online
The majority of MMA betting handle tends to go on simple wagers predicting who will win the fight, but you do have other options. If you need a refresher, here’s a look at the most common types of wagers.
The moneyline matchup is the simple wager we were just discussing above in which you pick one fighter or the other to win. Here in the US, sportsbooks use the moneyline odds format and display wagers something like this:
- Jon Jones -286
- Alexander Gustafsson +230
Right off the bat, we can see Jon Jones is the betting favorite because his odds are negative. At -286, you are being asked to risk $2.86 for every $1.00 in potential winnings. In other words, a $286 wager on Jones would return $100 in net profit for a total payout of $386.
We can also see that Alexander Gustafsson is the underdog due to his odds being positive. At +230, you’re being asked to risk $1.00 for every $2.30 in potential winnings. A $100 wager on Gustafsson would return $230 in net profit for a total payout of $330.
The oddsmakers set the odds this way in an effort to balance the books. If they would have priced both fighters at even money, the betting public would overwhelmingly back the favorite (Jon Jones in this case) and put the sportsbook at risk of losing a significant amount of money.
By adjusting the odds, the bookmakers lure bettors in on both fighters. In a perfect world, the sportsbook will collect just enough money to use the losers to pay out the winners and pocket what’s left over. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the general idea.
To Go the Distance
This is a common type of MMA prop bet in which you’re betting “yes” or “no” on the fight going the distance. This bet would be worth considering if you’re having trouble picking the winner of a matchup but know both fighters are explosive strikers who tend to finish fights early. Rather than backing the winner, you might be better off betting on this being a short fight.
This is a similar bet to the “go the distance” wager, but uses an over/under format as is common in other sports when you try to predict the scoring total. In this example, your betting site may list the round total at 2.5 rounds ahead of a 5-round championship fight.
Your job at the bettor would be to try to predict whether the fight will last for more than 2.5 rounds or if it will all be over before the midway mark.
Winning round bets list both fighters with rounds 1-5 below their names. Your goal in this wager is to not only pick who wins, but in which round that fighter gets the job done. For example, picking Jon Jones in Round 1 means you will only be paid if Jon Jones finishes the fight in round 1.
The payouts for these wagers are higher than for only picking the winner due to the increased accuracy needed to predict the winner and the round. This is a tough bet to get right, but the payouts are juicy.
Method of Victory
Method of victory wagers have you pick the winning fighter and the manner in which the fighter wins the fight. Typically, your options for each fighter are:
- To win by decision
- To win by KO, TKO or DQ
- To win by submission
If you have a fighter in mind whose known for his razor-sharp submission game, you might go with a method of victory bet to enhance your payout beyond what you would have won simply backing him to win.
In-Play UFC Betting
In-play wagers differ from standard bets by taking place during the fight. Whereas a traditional UFC wager must be confirmed before Bruce Buffer informs the fighters “It’s time!”, an in-play bet is placed during the fight at odds that are constantly changing based on what’s happening inside the Octagon.
In other words, you can tune in to a live UFC broadcast, watch the action on TV and place bets all throughout the fights based on what you’re seeing happening in real time. It is a highly engaging experience that makes even the weakest UFC cards exciting from beginning to end.
The in-play betting format has proven extremely popular overseas and legal betting sites in the USA are already following suit. Visit any of the top MMA betting sites here in the US and you’ll find most offer in-play wagers for all key fights.
For the most part, in-play bets mirror those offered before the fight with the only difference being the ever-changing odds. The most common types of in-play bets offered for UFC fights include moneyline wagers on who will win, how long the fight will last and the method of victory.
Aside from pure entertainment value, in-play UFC betting opens the door to additional levels of strategy not provided by pre-event bets because you have more information to work with as you watch the fight unfold.
The oddsmakers also have access to this same information and adjust the odds accordingly, but they also have to account for public sentiment as wagers come in – and the public can often get caught up in the moment to push the odds in your favor.
As an example of how this can work to your advantage, imagine the heavy favorite who tends to start slow and then turn up the pace as the fight goes on thanks to great cardio and a smart game plan. Now, imagine the underdog in this fight having a strong first round.
The public tends to love an underdog, and money often comes pouring in if the underdog shows up with a solid first-round performance. This would be an ideal time for you to get your money in on the favorite at improved odds provided you can see he’s not taking excessive amounts of damage.
In-play UFC betting can also be used to hedge your bets when things really do start to go wrong for your pick. If you have money on a fighter and he’s just not looking great or seems to be off his game somehow, you can offload some of your risk by putting a little money on the opponent.
The main thing to be on the lookout for is getting swept up in the momentum of an exciting card and placing bets just for fun. The sheer number of markets available during any given fight combined with the natural ebb and flow of a fight make it deceptively easy to risk more money than you planned on ahead of time. You’ll be doing yourself a great favor if you always set a betting limit in advance and stick to that no matter what happens.
Best Fantasy UFC Sites
For those of you still waiting for your state to legalize sports betting, daily fantasy UFC can help you scratch that itch in a way that is legal and potentially just as lucrative. As is the case with traditional sports betting, fantasy MMA offers the opportunity to put your knowledge to the test and win money if you’re able to outsmart the competition.
The basic idea behind fantasy UFC is to pick a dream team of fighters who are slated to compete on the next card. You’ll be given a virtual salary to draft your squad and then earn fantasy points as your picks land punches, complete takedowns and win fights. The faster your fighters win and the more dominant their performances, the more points you accumulate.
One thing you’ll find with fantasy MMA is knowledge is just as an important here as it is with regular sports betting. Whether we’re discussing traditional wagers or fantasy lineups, your ability to compare fighters’ styles and figure out who has the best chances to win fights will ultimately determine your results.
Where Can I Play Fantasy MMA Online?
Finding a place to participate in real money MMA fantasy leagues can be tough. This is a pretty niche sport already and finding people who not only watch MMA but also have an interest in fantasy betting is a narrow demographic.
The good news is most of those people have congregated at one fantasy sports site in particular: DraftKings.com. This is by far the best place to fantasy UFC due to the number of players and amounts of money that can be won. For example, a recent MMA contest with a $25 buyin fee featured a total prize pool of $300,000 and a first-place prize of $100,000.
In addition to large contests, DraftKings hosts everything from heads-up contests (you and just one opponent compete to draft the best possible lineup) to contests with room for more than 14,000 entrants. Buyins start at a low end of $0.10 and go as high as $10,600 at the highest levels.