Amid ongoing investigations into unusual wagering activity, the UFC has announced a partnership with a betting integrity company.
Octagon betting became a controversial topic following the events of UFC Vegas 64 last November. After a drastic line movement, which came as gamblers flocked to put money on Shayilan Nuerdanbieke stopping Darrick Minner inside one round, all eyes were on the pair’s featherweight clash.
When a knee injury brought the contest to a halt in quick time, suspicion only increased. Since then, Minner has been released by the promotion and suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Significant action has also come against coach James Krause, who was publicly noted to have run a betting scheme on Discord. The former fighter has now been prohibited from cornering UFC athletes, with roster members under his tutelage also barred from competing.
Most recently, in-form UFC flyweight Jeff Molina was suspended after information emerged that suggests he boasted “substantial” involvement in Krause’s scheme.
With the severity of the issue clear, the UFC has taken steps to resolve the matter through adjustments to its Athlete Conduct Policy. While that previously saw a firm ban on fighters and those around them from wagering, the promotion has now hired U.S. Integrity as its official betting integrity partner.
On Thursday, the promotion announced the partnership, noting that U.S. Integrity is capable of “identifying and analyzing unusual wagering activity as indicative of possible integrity concerns.”
In a statement, Executive Vice President & General Counsel of UFC Riché T. McKnight spoke about the new agreement, which is set to last throughout 2023 and encompasses Dana White‘s Contender Series, and the organization’s hope that it will help address the crucial topic of integrity in MMA.
“There is no greater responsibility we have to our athletes, fans, and business partners than to ensure the integrity of our sport,” McKnight said. “U.S. Integrity will help us strengthen our existing best practices by applying their expertise in data intelligence to proactively identify irregular bout-level wagering patterns. This information can inform UFC’s response and can be preemptively shared with sports books, who can make informed decisions as to whether or not halt betting on a particular bout.”
U.S. Integrity CEO & co-founder Matthew Holt also addressed his company’s mission, noting that it’s looking forward to ‘improving’ UFC policies.
“U.S. Integrity is proud to partner with UFC and assist as wagering on their events continues to rapidly grow across the regulated sports betting market,” Holt said. “U.S. Integrity’s mission is to provide best-in-class insights and compliance solutions to our clients. We are looking forward to working with the exceptional team at UFC as they work to improve their integrity policies and procedures.”
Interestingly, U.S. Integrity was quick to start an investigation into the controversial UFC Vegas 64 fight last November, with Holt noting at the time that his company had even warned of the suspicious activity prior to the fight taking place.
Ontario Provides Positive Response To UFC Changes
The changes to the UFC’s Athlete Conduct Policy come after wagering on Octagon fights was banned in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Alberta last month. While the latter reinstated UFC wagering shortly after, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has been awaiting substantial action from the MMA leader.
On Thursday, with the announcement of the promotion’s partnership with U.S. Integrity and strict gambling prohibition on managers, coaches, insiders, and individuals affiliated with fighters or the UFC, betting on events was reinstated in Ontario.
In his statement, McKnight detailed the positive discourse the UFC has had with the AGCO since the restriction on UFC wagering in early December.
“Throughout this process, we have had productive discussions with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to address the concerns AGCO expressed to their operators,” McKnight said. “We have made enhancements to our UFC Athlete Conduct Policy to more clearly express the prohibition against any UFC athlete from placing any wagers directly or through a third party on any UFC match, including placing wagers on themselves.
“We have also expanded our discussion of so-called ‘UFC Insiders’ to make clear that these same prohibitions against wagering apply to an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, and other individuals affiliated with the athletes or UFC, and that violations by these Insiders may result in disciplinary action against related contract athletes. Finally, we have reiterated our expectation that our contract athletes will come to us to report any matters that might raise integrity concerns. We thank the AGCO for their cooperation, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure the integrity of our sport for the benefit of our athletes and our fans,” McKnight concluded.
In a press release, AGCO registrar Tom Mungham noted the commission’s satisfaction at the changes.
“The AGCO is committed to protecting Ontario players and the integrity of its betting market,” Mungham said. “With the legalization of single event betting last year, the AGCO created strong new rules to protect bettors in Ontario. We are pleased these rules are already working to strengthen the integrity of sports betting in Ontario and, as a result, of UFC competitions around the world.”
The decision to reinstate UFC wagering following positive changes to the Athlete Conduct Policy comes just days before the promotion kicks off its pay-per-view schedule for 2023 with UFC 283 in Brazil.
What do you make of the UFC’s attempts to combat and solve the recent betting controversy?