Elite competition, thousands of chanting fans, boisterous entrances, and celebrity cameos — this is what you can expect from any high-level UFC event.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship is its most popular promotion.
With single-event betting legalized in Canada, now is the time to get familiar with the different ways you can bet on your favourite sports. So if you're wondering how to bet on the UFC, we have you covered.
While the UFC is considered the pinnacle of MMA, there are other promotions — such as Bellator, Absolute Championship Akhmat, and Eagle Fighting Championship — that also showcase top talent. You can, of course, bet on those, too.
How to bet on UFC
In this UFC betting guide, we are going to focus on the most common MMA betting markets, including outrights and method of victory. In addition, we will also provide examples of how to bet on UFC parlays and futures.
While the UFC isn't an everyday sport, there are big events nearly every weekend. That gives bettors an opportunity to consistently get in on the action and wager on their favourite fighters.
How to bet on UFC outrights (moneyline)
Outright betting is undoubtedly the most popular way to bet on the UFC and the concept is simple: In short, pick the winner of the fight and you will win if done correctly. This can also be referred to as the moneyline (ML).
There are many ways a fight can end, but the method of victory does not matter for an outright bet. A fight can therefore end in a knockout, the judges' decision, or even disqualification. If your pick is declared the winner, you win the bet.
Each fighter will either be listed as a favourite, with a minus (-) sign before his or her odds, or an underdog, which is noted by a plus (+) sign. A good example to use is perhaps the most famous fight in UFC history — Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223.
UFC outright odds
The odds for that McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov fight looked like this:
McGregor +130 (underdog)
Nurmagomedov -160 (favourite)
If you were to place $100 on McGregor to win outright it would have netted a profit of $130 if he won. You needed to place $160 to win $100 on Khabib, with the $60 being the sportsbook's commission (juice) for taking the bet since he was the favourite.
Favourites in the UFC can vary anywhere from -110, which is basically a pick'em, to around -1000. Khabib -160 meant that there was a 61.5% implied probability of him winning. A -1000 favourite indicates a 90.9% implied probability of victory.
For a -1000 favourite, you would have to wager $1000 to return $100. Disparity like this is typically seen when a fighter severely outclasses their opponent.
While fighters are forced to compete within weight classes (there are eight different weight classes for men and four for women), there can still be physical advantages such as reach and height that can dictate how the odds are set.
Technical skills such as wrestling discipline, striking ability, and takedown defence are even more influential in setting the odds.
Upsets may be unlikely, but anything can happen in a combat sport. One big upset was when +700 underdog Julianna Pena defeated nine-time defending champion Amanda Nunes (-1400 favourite) via submission in the second round at UFC 269. A $100 bet on Pena would have won $700.
Method of victory
Similar to outright betting, method of victory betting requires choosing the winner of the contest but also picking how the fight will end.
We'll take a look at the different scenarios below.
KO/TKO/DQ or submission
This is known as finishing the fight "inside." Each fight consists of three rounds (five if it's the main event or a title fight). If a competitor is knocked out, the fight is over. The bout would also be over if a fighter is deemed unable to continue by a doctor or referee. That's known as a technical knockout.
Additionally, if a fighter forces their opponent to tap out (submission), the fight is over. Finally, a fighter can be disqualified in rare circumstances.
Decision or technical decision
If all rounds culminate without a stoppage the fight goes to a decision. The winner of the fight will then be determined by three judges who are tabbed with keeping a round-by-round score using a 10-point scoring system. The judges will award 10 points to the winner of the round and up to nine points to the opponent. A tied round is scored 10-10.
The judges then compare cards and if all three agree, it becomes a unanimous decision. It's considered a split decision if only two of the three judges agree. Either way, whoever has the most votes wins.
When choosing to bet on method of victory, it's important to consider whether the competitor is known for having knockout power or if their game is based around endurance and wearing the competition out.
Let's use the example of Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane, who headlined UFC 270 in January 2022.
Ngannou was +125 to win outright, while Gane sat at -150. If you were to pick either to win inside, their odds would each increase to +150. Ngannou to win by decision changed his odds to +1400, while Gane to win by decision was set at +300.
This is because Ngannou is notorious for knocking out opponents and doesn’t have the stamina to last long into fights. The operator is assuming that if Ngannou can't knockout Gane, he's more likely to lose if it reaches a decision. But he didn't.
So the bettors who backed Ngannou to win by decision made significant profits.
Round betting is another wrinkle similar to method of victory. You are predicting what round the fight will end in. It doesn't matter how the fight ends, but only what round it finishes in.
You can place a wager on a fighter to win in a specific round or simply pick the round you believe the fight will end in regardless of the victor.
While round betting drastically increases the odds, it is important to remember you are assuming more risk, as it is less likely to predict what will occur.
Let's use the Ngannou/Gane example again:
|Round||Francis Ngannou||Ciryl Gane||Either|
Ngannou's odds reflect that he typically comes out of the gates strong. A first-round finish has a 20% implied probability of occurring, while a fifth-round finish sits at only 2.9%.
If you believe there will be a quick knockout but aren't sure who will win, it makes sense to bet both round one and two "either" finishes at +210 and +350, respectively.
Round betting can be advantageous if there is a large disparity in talent between the competitors. Islam Makhachev fought Dan Hooker at UFC 267 and was a -600 favourite outright, while his odds to win inside sat at -230. Makhachev, who has a history of finishing fights early, was +250 to win in the first round.
It would have been a good day to place that bet as Makhachev submitted Hooker in the first round. A $100 wager would have netted a $250 profit.
Betting on UFC round totals is similar to round betting, but with a twist: it does not matter who wins. When betting on the UFC, or any MMA promotion, you have the option to pick the total rounds a fight will last.
This is similar to an over/under bet in other sports and will look like this:
1.5 total rounds: over (-200), under (+175)
2.5 total rounds: over (-110), under (-110)
3.5 total rounds: over (+150), under (-140)
4.5 total rounds: over (+220), under (-240)
The .5 indicates the round would have to go over the 2:30 mark in the following round (each round is five minutes long). The over 1.5 total round bet would cash once 2:30 is eclipsed in the second round.
These lines would change based on the competition. If the two fighters are both knockout specialists, the unders would have significantly lower odds.
How to bet on UFC parlays
Parlays are an incredibly popular way to bet on the UFC. A parlay is when you combine two or more separate bets into one ticket. Each bet inside a parlay is known as a leg.
Keep in mind that for a parlay to win, every leg on the ticket has to cash. If one selection loses, the entire parlay does.
It's difficult to net a large return when selecting favourites in the UFC outrights betting market. Favourites often sit around -300, -350, and even -600, leading to small returns on single-event wagers. If you're confident in those heavy favourites winning, however, a parlay could be your best option for a strong ROI.
You can also parlay round totals, finishes, and moneylines together — there are literally thousands of different possibilities.
An example of a parlay bet looks like this:
Kamaru Usman to win via TKO/KO/DQ/submission (+175)
Khamzat Chimaev outright (-300)
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena under 2.5 rounds (-130)
That comes out to +643 odds. You would need all three outcomes of that bet to be correct and a $100 wager would produce a payout of $743.33.
How to bet on UFC futures
Future betting in the UFC differs from other sports as there's no market for predicting title contenders. Who will fight for a title could change on a weekly basis depending on who's competing.
Odds will typically come out shortly after a UFC event is announced, however, meaning you can place a bet on a fight that is several months away.
This presents an opportunity to wager on odds before they shift in the weeks leading up to the fight. This is smart if you think a fighter's opening line offers a lot of value.
For example, Nunes could open as a -300 favourite, but enter the fight with -600 odds. Odds shift due to liabilities and are done to ensure sportsbooks can maintain a certain profit margin.