Of course the UFC is the most popular MMA organization in the world. However, the Bellator Fighting Championship and Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts organizations are picking up steam. As they do, the betting options for those organizations is increasing as well. Now we have three legitimate MMA associations that we can regularly bet on, not just one.
How to Bet on MMA Fights
The most popular way to bet on MMA fights is on the money line, a straight-up bet on the winner. A lot of handicappers also like to parlay bet on MMA fights, giving them increased odds, allowing them to make bigger profits on smaller wagers.
With the growth of the sport however, betting sites are starting to offer more & more betting options. Prop bets can be found for big UFC fights, along with futures bets on fights that may or may not ever happen.
MMA Straight-Up Bets
Straight-up, money line bets are by far the most popular MMA bets. Negative money line bets represent the favored fighter, and positive money lines represent the underdog. Here’s an example:
- Georges St-Pierre: -210
- Dan Hardy: +170
In this example, Georges St-Pierre is the favorite and Dan Hardy is the dog, as indicated by their negative and positive money lines. Both lines use the $100 figure as a basis to calculate payouts, but they’re figured differently.
Negative Money Line Payouts
Negative money lines indicate the amount of money that would need to be wagered in order to win $100 in profit. So, it would take a bet of $210 to win $100 in profit on St-Pierre, or $21 to win $10.
Positive Money Line Payouts
Positive money lines indicate the amount of profit that would be won from a $100 wager. A $100 bet on Dan Hardy would result in a $170 profit if he were to win.
MMA Parlay Bets
A parlay bet is a popular way to increase your odds when betting on MMA fights. An MMA parlay bet is a wager where the bettor adds 2 or more fighters to a single ticket. Each fighter on a ticket must win his fight, or the entire parlay is lost. However, if they win, the odds are much greater than individual bets. Got a big favorite you like with crummy odds? This happens a lot in MMA fighting, and it’s hard to risk $500 to win $150. So, a lot of punters like to add that fight to a parlay with another fight, dramatically improving the potential payout.
While a lot of punters like to add a tougher fight to an easy one, I typically do it the other way around. For example, when I see a fight that appears to be close and the odds are tight, I like to put that fight on a parlay with a big favorite who I clearly expect to win. While no fight is a ‘lock’, big favorites do win a lot more often than they lose. So, what I’ll generally do is make a slightly smaller bet on a parlay, essentially increasing my odds on the close fight. Of course my favorite has to win also, but he generally does, and I’ll typically increase my odds on the close fight by 40% or more. This allows me to make a smaller bet and take a smaller loss, with a payout in the same ballpark as a larger bet on the tough fight alone.
While you can’t place hard rules on this type of bet, I do tend to follow some guidelines. First, I rarely take the big favorite if he’s the champion or aging, when his opponent is a young up and comer. While experience is a good thing, so is youthfulness and desire. Young, up and coming fighters tend to improve from fight to fight. They’re also hungrier when they have a championship to win. So, I don’t bet against those guys when this is my ‘safe’ fight that is being added to a parlay.
MMA Prop Bets
Some online betting sites offer prop bets for big fights, usually UFC fights. Props for MMA might include some of the following:
- Will the fight go the distance, yes or no?
- Will the fight end in knockout?
- Complete/not-complete the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round.
Prop bets are fun in almost any sport because they give punters a chance to bet on more than just the outcome of a game or fight. In MMA, they give us a chance to bet on individual rounds, and use our knowledge of the sport to try and figure out more difficult results. Some sites even offer prop bets on exactly how the match will end, like and arm-bar, tapout, etc.
Since props can be hard to win, and the vig (juice) is generally higher than money line bets, we recommend that serious handicappers either stay away from them altogether, or keep their bets to a maximum of .5% of their bankroll.
MMA Futures Bets
Since MMA is growing so rapidly, and with few betting options available right now, online betting sites have been experimenting with a variety of different types of bets, including futures. For example, some sites are offering futures bets on who will be the heavyweight champion at the end of the calendar year. We’re also seeing futures bets on fights that are not even scheduled yet. If you place a bet on a fight like this, and it never happens, you’ll get your money back. The problem is, how long will you have to wait to get it back, and what could you have done with that money in the meantime?
For this reason, we only recommend placing bets on fights or events that you know are going to happen. We know that someone will be the heavyweight champion at the end of the year, so clearly this is a smarter bet than a bet placed on a mystical fight we ‘hope’ will come. The issue of time is still a problem though, and if it’s early in the year, the betting site is going to have your money until the end of the year. For serious handicappers using a set bankroll, bets like these are a bad idea.
While MMA futures bet are really hit or miss right now, occasionally we find something interesting. Keep your eyes open because betting sites continue to get more creative with their MMA futures bets.
If you’re a casual bettor looking to have some fun, have some fun. However, if you take your sports betting seriously and work within a bankroll, don’t bet on futures or keep these bets down to a maximum of .5% of your bankroll.
While there are several MMA organizations around the world, the three most popular are the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Bellator Fighting Championships, and Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
The UFC is the premier mixed martial arts association in the world. They have the best fighters, the largest fan base, and the best betting options. Every sports betting site offers UFC money line bets, and some offer props and futures as well.
For big fights, odds are often released months in advance. While that might sound good, lines don’t generally start moving until the week of the fight. So, instead of locking up a portion of your bankroll thinking you’ve found great value, it’s usually a better idea to keep your money liquid for other bets, and wait until closer to fight night.
Since there’s so much attention on UFC fights, it’s generally better to take heavy favorites early, before the lines start to move. If you’re picking an underdog, it’s usually better to wait until an hour or two before fight time. This is because favorites tend to get most of the action, regardless of the odds. This moves the line in favor of those betting the underdog. Don’t wait too long though, because in the last hour or two, it’s not uncommon for whales to drop big bombs on the dog – hurting your odds.
Bellator Fighting Championships
With the growth of Bellator, more & more betting sites are starting to offer betting on their fights. The interesting thing about smaller MMA organizations like Bellator and Strikeforce is that often times they can offer better value than UFC fights. The main reason for this is that fewer cappers and linesmakers are knowledgeable about the fighters involved, so those who follow these organizations closely can actually beat the books.
Lines don’t move as quickly for Bellator fights as they do for UFC fights. While it can make it harder to track the direction a line is taking, lines get held longer. This means that opening lines which theoretically should be moving, often times do not. This is usually good for betting on favorites because it means you can make later bets and still get optimal odds.
For underdogs betting on Bellator fights, it’s usually best to wait until 30-60 minutes before fight time. Bellator doesn’t attract the volume of big bettors that UFC fights do, so the odds tend to favor the dog the longer you wait.
Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts
A short time ago, it was close to impossible to find betting sites that offered Strikeforce betting. That’s changed quickly, and now the majority of the betting sites now offer it. It’s still hard to find undercards to bet on, but generally the top 2-3 fights per event can be wagered on.
Like Bellator, Strikeforce doesn’t draw the huge interest of the UFC, so similar ideas apply to betting. Punters can wait longer to bet on favorites, and should wait even longer to bet on dogs. For favorites, lines generally start moving about 24-36 hours before the fight. So, it’s usually a good idea to get your bets in prior to that time.