You thought sports fans lapped up the NFL Draft. Wait until this weekend with UFC 249.
In what has felt like 84 years since the country last had a live sporting event that wasn’t table tennis – thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – sports fans will get a short reprieve Saturday. And then two more times thanks to UFC fight cards on May 13 and 16.
What makes all of this even better is sports betting is now official in Colorado. After the launch on May 1, fans will not only get to watch the fight card from Jacksonville but bet on it from their couches.
Bring on the fights
Needless to say, fans are ready for some live action.
“I used to live in Las Vegas so, yes, I am used to the apps and sports gambling,” Denver resident Tim Givan told PlayColorado. “I am really excited to be able to do it in Colorado. I am a rare person that used to make trips just to Vegas to bet sports, so it’s nice to not have to do that again. And the bonuses DraftKings and FanDuel are giving are something unheard of in Vegas.”
Givan is such a big UFC fan, he actually drove to Vegas for the last pay-per-view event in early March.
“I have been betting on events in Colorado for the last 10 years online with offshore sports books,” he said. “I like sitting in Coors Field or the Pepsi Center and placing wagers minutes before game time.
“UFC events used to be a cash machine, but with so many events now and so many new fighters in UFC, it is more difficult.”
- What: UFC 249
- When: May 9
- Where: Jacksonville, Florida
- Watch: ESPN+, Fight Pass for Prelims; PPV for Main Card
Apps to bet on UFC 249 with
As of now, there are four apps for sports bettors in Colorado to use for Saturday’s fight card.
- DraftKings — partner with Golden Mardi Gras
- FanDuel — partner with Golden Gates Casino
- BetMGM — partner with Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino
- BetRivers — partner with J.P. McGill’s Hotel and Casino
That’s out of 17 scheduled to launch in Colorado at some point in the future.
DraftKings is celebrating the fights by offering a $1 million DFS contest — the largest MMA fantasy prize pool ever offered on its platform.
UFC 249 odds and fight card
Interim UFC Lightweight Championship
- Tony Ferguson (-177 DraftKings) (-172 FanDuel) vs. Justin Gaethje (+150) (+146)
- Henry Cerrudo (-220 DK) (-210 FD) vs. Dominick Cruz (+183) (+176) (UFC Bantamweight Championship)
- Francis Ngannou (-278 DK) (-270 FD) vs. Jairzinho RozenStruik (+225) (+220)
- Jeremy Stephens (+206 DK) (+205 FD) vs. Calvin Kattar (-250) (-250)
- Greg Hardy (-200 DK) (-205 FD) vs. Yorgan de Castro (+165) (+172)
“This card is really strange because of coronavirus and no fans,” Givan said. “Some of these guys’ gyms that are closed are having trouble finding sparring partners. Traveling to Florida, most guys would fly and now a lot are driving.
“Some of these guys just found out for sure they are fighting this weekend, two to three weeks ago … so this card will be tricky. But with no sports on and no fights for so long, it will be fun to have Saturday night violence back.”
How we got here
The route to get to a Saturday fight card has been an eventful ride, to say the least.
As Yahoo Sports! points out, UFC had to go dark for seven weeks because of coronavirus. Yahoo adds that its last show was on March 14 in Brazil in front of an empty arena.
The UFC originally tried to move UFC 249 to tribal land in California on April 18 to skirt around state event-closure orders, but eventually postponed it. The UFC had reportedly been looking to hold events on a private island before announcing UFC 249 would take place in Florida.
Now that the UFC is set for a return to live action on Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, there will be no fans in attendance.
That may seem a bit odd at first, but definitely not as strange as watching the WWE without fans.
“I’ve already put (having fans in the building) out of my mind and we’re planning to have none way into the future,” UFC president Dana White told Yahoo.
If you were wondering about testing and how that will work, Yahoo reported that White would not say whether the UFC planned to test for the coronavirus, but several fighters have confirmed to Yahoo Sports that they have been told by the promoter that they and their camps will be tested.