Is It Worth Betting On UFC Fights?

With the UFC continuing to grow in popularity, more and more bets are being placed on main event fights. But who should you back, the favourite or the underdog? As we all know, every fight is unique but we wanted to discover who would have made you the most money, so we have researched every main event and title fight on every UFC card since November 2005 and have simulated betting £1 on every favourite and every underdog.

There have been 325 main events/title fights in the past 11 years. 222 of these resulted in the favourite winning, 99 resulted in the underdog winning with the other fights resulting in a draw. The ‘earnings’ are eye opening. If you put £1 on the underdog in every single fight you would have only taken home £313.22, losing £11.78, whereas if you put your £1 on the favourite in every fight, you would have still made a loss of £17.44, regardless of winning 68% of the time.

So, by choosing to back either the favourite or the underdog each time you would end up losing money – music to the ears of the bookies. The win percentage for the favourite versus the underdog is as expected but the odds are very poor; the average odds for the favourite are 9/25 (-280) – a return of £1.36 from £1 whereas the average odds for the underdog are 68/25 (+272) – a return of £3.72 from £1.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is one of the most unforgiving sports there is in which the smallest individual mistakes can dictate the outcome of a fight, making each bout extremely unpredictable. At the level of the UFC, virtually all bouts are evenly matched with even imperious champions susceptible to shock losses, so predicting a winner is never straightforward and why we are seeing bookmakers playing it safe when placing the odds.

So surely there are dominant fighters you can rely on to at least make a small profit? Heavy favourites throughout the years such as Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Jon Jones and Demetrious Johnson have all won the majority of their fights, however their odds have been so poor that very little profit can be made on each fight and with the possibility of an upset, is it really worth it? Let’s take a look at their average odds:

Who has been the favourite the most times and what were their average odds?

Although these fighters have won several fights, their odds as favourites will make you hardly any money. So some of the most successful fighters may not be worth spending your money on, but who is?

What fighters would have made you the most profit?

Somewhat surprisingly, the Ultimate Fighter 4 winner Matt Serra tops the bill. If you backed him in all his bouts you would have made a £9.35 profit from your original £1 stake. The majority of these winnings came from one of the biggest shocks in UFC history when he TKO’d Georges St. Pierre back in 2007 to capture the Welterweight title. Serra was a 7/1 (+700) underdog. The only bigger underdog to cause an upset was TJ Dillashaw at 153/20 (+765) when he put on a clinic to beat Renan Barao for the Bantamweight title.

The key observation in these findings is that, with the exception of Georges St. Pierre, every fighter on this list has achieved a major upset as the underdog, making up the majority of their earnings. Clearly, the money is with the underdog. Safe bets with dominant champions will make you some change now and again but the Return on Investment (ROI) is so low it simply is not worth it, especially with the possibility of an upset. Just take a look at Anderson Silva who won all his fights until Chris Weidman pulled off two shock wins against him. Silva’s ROI is in fact is only 26% besides being one of the most dominant champions in history. Georges St. Pierre is 31%, Jon Jones 27% and Demetrious Johnson only 18%.

What fighters have the best ROI?

Again, the theme here is upsets. All fighters on this list have achieved wins as the underdog with some very notable upsets.

Ultimately, there is little money to be made by betting on the UFC. The unpredictable nature of MMA sees bookmakers offering poor odds, especially for the favourites and as we see more and more upsets and champions losing their belts, backing the favourite simply is not worth it. Your most likely chance to make money is to back the underdog. However, with the underdog only winning 30% of the time, you need an educated opinion of the sport and a lot of luck on your side to reap the rewards. So if you have the courage to bet on the UFC, wait for a big underdog, do your research and hope you get lucky! What you can rely on however is that these UFC fights offer some of the most entertaining and individual brilliance sport has to offer, so our advice would be to sit back, enjoy and keep your money in your pocket!