If you tune into UFC 251, you’ll witness history.
In fact, Saturday’s historic moment begins before the fights even start.
The event is the first to take place on what the UFC has dubbed “Fight Island.” UFC 251 is the first of four events this month on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.
Bet on UFC 251 at DraftKings
Strict protocols for UFC 251
As ESPN notes, anyone involved is relegated to a “safe zone” where the general public isn’t allowed. The story adds that those contained in this zone, including local workers and UFC’s traveling party, will be tested for COVID-19 multiple times.
To give you an idea of how strict the protocols are on Fight Island, according to ESPN, people in the contained area will not have in-and-out privileges.
“It’s going to be the tightest bubble that you could sort of ever produce,” UFC COO Lawrence Epstein told ESPN. “It’s a pretty unique situation on an island with incredible controls over who’s coming in, and not letting people come back in once they’ve left.”
After the four events on Fight Island, the UFC has nine events slated for August. As ESPN said, the UFC will debrief after Abu Dhabi and discuss putting forth more changes for its Las Vegas return.
What: UFC 251, “Usman vs. Masvidal”
When: Saturday, 6 p.m. MST prelims; 8 p.m. main card
Where: UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island
Watch: Prelims on ESPN/ESPN+; main card on ESPN+
UFC 251 main event odds
|UFC 251 main event odds: Champion Kamaru Usman (16-1) vs. No. 3 Jorge Masvidal (35-13)|
|DraftKings odds: Usman -265, Masvidal +210|
|FanDuel odds: Usman -300, Masvidal +230|
UFC 251 main card odds
|UFC 251 main card odds||DraftKings||FanDuel|
|Featherweight title bout: Champion Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) vs. No. 1 Max Holloway (21-5)||Volkanovski -230, Holloway +185||Volkanovski -220, Holloway +176|
|Vacant bantamweight title: No. 3 Peter Yan (14-1) vs. Jose Aldo (28-6)||Yan -250, Aldo +200||Yan -240, Aldo +192|
|Women's strawweight: No. 1 Jessica Andrade (20-7) vs. No. 2 Rose Namajunas (9-4)||Andrade +162, Namajunas -200||Andrade +160, Namajunas -198|
|Women's flyweight: No. 14 Amanda Ribas (9-1) vs. No. 12 Paige VanZant (8-4)||Ribas -835, VanZant +525||Ribas -950, VanZant +600|
Fighter tests positive for COVID-19
As for Saturday’s UFC 251 …
COVID-19 already had its hands in the main event.
ESPN noted that headliner Gilbert Burns tested positive for coronavirus, along with two of his corner people, last Friday. He has since been replaced by Jorge Masvidal, who will now face UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Since Usman (16-1) has prepared for Burns, the change to Masvidal (35-13) makes the fight incredibly interesting — for both fighters.
Is Usman at a disadvantage since he thought he would face Burns? Or is Masvidal, for taking the fight on short notice? Masvidal took the fight on seven days’ notice.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto had a great point in this roundtable:
“I wouldn’t say either is taking a bigger risk, honestly. This was always the fight to make. You can certainly make an argument that Masvidal is taking a risk by accepting it on short notice, but he has been in the gym training. He is (presumably) getting the money he wanted for this fight. If he loses, he’s still a ‘BMF,’ taking a title fight on seven days’ notice and flying to Fight Island. It’s a great story for Masvidal, win or lose. I guess you could argue that Usman is taking a risk, but he’s the champion. He’s always at risk. Any loss is massive because it comes with the loss of a belt. But Masvidal is a much bigger name opponent than Gilbert Burns would have been. There’s more upside now for Usman, in terms of raising his stock. I don’t look at this fight as a risk for either guy. I look at it as (an) opportunity.”
UFC main event odds boost
The interesting factor is how the change impacts the way bettors think about and bet on the fight?
Speaking of which, DraftKings is offering an odds boost for the main event. It’s only for those new to sports betting online on the DraftKings mobile sports betting app.
Right now, DraftKings is giving +500 odds on either side of the main event. You can get either Usman or Masvidal to win at +500.
Here’s how it works:
- After you sign up for the app, you’ll be issued one single-use, prematch odds boost to use for either fighter to win (moneyline), boosted to +500.
- You must select the boost from your bet slip before placing your bet(s) to apply the boosted price.
- The maximum bet is $20.
- One qualifying bet per user.
- If the boosts do not appear, refresh the page or try opting in again.
- Excluded are live bets, parlays, cash-out bets, free bets and voided bets.
- Players must be within the state of Colorado.
- Bettors must be new users.
As for the main card, the UFC isn’t messing around.
Colorado sports bettors have three UFC title fights to bet on this weekend. The potential is there for history to be made on Fight Island.
Possible path for other leagues?
With the return of play for the MLB, the NBA and NHL in the next few weeks, you could see similar policies implemented. The NFL has training camps set to start on July 28, so teams like the Denver Broncos may also follow suit.
When you consider the massive uptick in coronavirus cases across the US right now, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The UFC is forging a potential path for safe and effective returns for major US sports.