UFC Betting Scandal Paints Picture We Know All Too Well

UFC Betting Scandal Paints Picture We Know All Too Well
Image ©Jason Da Silva-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Weber
Author:
Frank Weber
Updated: 
December 23rd 2022

When I was growing up, my dad always told me about boxing in its heyday. He and his friends would buy tickets to watch the big fights at the local movie theater and it would always be a madhouse. From Ali, to Spinks, to Holmes, to Tyson, nothing was larger than a championship fight. 

Hearing these stories about just how popular boxing was always surprised me when I was younger because the boxing I grew up with was practically non-existent. Sure, it’s reached a bit of a renaissance right now thanks to guys like Canelo, Tyson Fury, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia–but, how much of a renaissance could it really be when Tyson Fury fought just a few weeks ago and no one seemed to care?

So what killed boxing? Well, according to my Dad, that answer is easy, and I’m inclined to agree: Corruption. 

An aurora of corruption has seemed to envelop boxing for decades now, and you know what they say: When there’s smoke, there’s fire. Fans were sick of watching fight after fight end with a questionable decision, so over time, the sport began to die. And while it’s still alive and well today, it will never be able to return to the glory days it once saw. 

The point of this all is, I’m afraid the UFC is beginning to slide down a similar path. It’s one thing to see a decision every now and then that really makes you scratch your head (although now it seems to be happening more and more often). However, it’s a completely different thing to have the FBI investigate a fight organization over fixed fights. Especially when that organization (the UFC) is one that has constantly prided itself on being the last remaining “fair” organization on the market.

So, what exactly is going on? Let’s take a look.

James Krause, Darrick Minner, and Where It All Began

If you’re a real UFC fan, then you probably recognize James Krause’s name. Krause began his UFC career as a fighter, making his official UFC debut at UFC 161 back in 2013. He held a record of 9-4 inside the organization before retiring in 2020, choosing to focus on his coaching career rather than his fighting career.

The coaching career got off to a hot start for Krause, with one of his fighters even grabbing a championship belt (Flyweight Brandon Moreno). Krause also ran a very successful Discord server at the time, where people would pay him for his best UFC bets.

“I bet every single card just about every fight,” Krause said on the MMA Hour in August. “I have a Discord [server], like 2,000 members in it, we crush it. Last week, we destroyed it. I take over people’s accounts and play for them, I do pretty well. I make more money gambling on MMA than I do anything else.”

Keep in mind, this was completely legal at the time. In fact, the UFC didn’t hammer down sports betting restrictions to include UFC coaches until October of 2022, when they released a policy update stating the following:

“Athletes are prohibited from placing any wagers (directly or through a third party) on any UFC match, including placing any wagers on themselves. In most states with legalized sports betting, wagering by an athlete (directly or through a third party) on any MMA match put on by a promoter with which they are affiliated is illegal and may result in criminal sanction. Athletes should also be aware that in most states these same prohibitions apply to some or all of (i) relatives living in the same household as an athlete, (ii) any other person with access to non-public information regarding participants in any MMA match.”

Phew, glad they ironed this one out before things got out of control, right? 

Well, think again. 

On November 5th, 2022, less than a month after the UFC updated their policy, a fight between Darrick Minner, coached by James Krause, and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke took place on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Lemos . Nuerdanbieke opened the fight as a -237 favorite, but just 90 minutes before the fight occurred, something strange happened: his odds plummeted. Going from a -237 favorite to a -362 favorite in a matter of minutes, Nuerdanbieke became one of the biggest favorites on the card. More specifically, his odds to win by KO/TKO dropped from +300 to +155. 

This immediately caught the eye of many sports integrity officials, but the fight went on–and you’ll never guess what happened next. Nuerdanbieke defeated Darrick Minner in the first round via KO/TKO, with Minner making it abundantly clear he was injured from the first ring of the bell.

The following day, ESPN announced that the fight was being investigated by US Integrity, one of the leading integrity investigators in the world. After Dana White shrugged this off in the early stages, saying “That stuff happens all the time in sports,” things became increasingly more serious when, on November 18th, the Nevada State Athletic Committee suspended James Krause’s cornering license. 

The next day, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement prohibited sportsbooks from taking action on any fights that had connections to James Krause. 

In the following days, the entire Canadian Province’s of Ontario and Alberta stopped all wagering on future UFC events, citing concerns about “wagering integrity.” Following this move, the UFC responded quickly, releasing Darrick Minner as well as a statement that said:

“[The] UFC has since advised Krause and the respective managers working with impacted fighters, that effective immediately, fighters who choose to continue to be coached by Krause or who continue to train in his gym, will not be permitted to participate in UFC events pending the outcome of the aforementioned government investigations.”

What This Means For The Future of the UFC

Before I get ahead of myself, it’s important to reiterate–the investigation is ongoing. That said, this is not something that will be easily forgotten–especially if it goes deeper than just James Krause. There are rumors swirling that Krause leaked information about Minner’s injury prior to the fight, thus causing a line shift. If that was it, then great–you cut off the mold and you keep on chomping. However, if it comes out that the UFC was somehow involved in all of these, we have a whole different story on our hands.

All of this coming out after UFC 282, which saw two incredibly questionable fight decisions, does not leave the UFC in a good light as they are about to enter their holiday hiatus. 

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