On an event by event basis punters wager more on average for top level boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) than the likes of football or even horse racing. This is largely because most fight fans bet on the winner of a bout and in order to make it worthwhile you will often need to stake decent sums to get a good return.
If you are going to bet big on boxing or MMA it helps to know where to bet, as even a small difference in odds can have a significant impact on returns. Alternatively, if you would like to bet on these sports but you want keep your stakes lower there are some fantastic altnernative markets now available through online betting. Round betting, method of victory and points wagers are becoming more popular than ever, especially as most fights can now be bet on live in play, and many of these lines offer longer odds compared to typical outright markets.
In this guide we will discuss which are the best bookies for betting on boxing and MMA, where you can find the best odds and offers, what bet types are available and how to bet, as well as major events and the history of boxing.
Best Online Bookmakers for Betting on Boxing and UFC
Most bookies will provide at least outright fight winner markets for big match ups but when you look deeper you can often find there is not much else there.
All of our recommended bookies here have good market depth with features that make them better than the rest for giving long term betting value.
William Hill are another industry giant and when it comes to sports like boxing and UFC this pays off for punters as they have the resources to offer big markets with competitive prices.
Punters at Hills will find they’ve got all they need in terms of market depth and range, if looking for boxing/UFC specials this is one of the better places to bet too. William Hill have a nice layout that splits competitions by class (bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, etc.) making finding your fights, especially in advance, much easier than you’ll find with other sites. In fact, when it comes to early prices this is a site to go to, Hill’s even offer markets on potential fights that haven’t even been officially announced yet.
If you are however someone that likes to see news and statistics from your bookie then you will also find lots of this from William Hill to aid you in picking the right wager to place.
Early And Best Prices
You can’t beat BetVictor when it comes to most of their odds prices. Market for market they tend to beat all their major competitors for the outright result lines at least. This is therefore a good bookmaker to use if you want to be safe in the knowledge that you are getting a good rate.
BetVictor are also good at releasing early prices. Many operators will wait to see who jumps first, this helps them set their own odds, however this is rarely the strategy used by BV. These guys are so confident in their pricing they are happy to release odds much earlier than others. If you think you’ve spotted the next Muhammad Ali this is a good place to get the early wagers in.
This bookie is good at running very decent free bet offers. They are not very common but when you do get a deal from Victor it tends to be high value. A typical example might be something like place a £5 UFC accumulator with 5+ picks and get a £5 free bet on the feature match up.
Best for Enhanced Odds and Refunds
Coral probably run more enhanced odds boost on boxing and UFC than any other bookie. They are probably the most generous site for providing boosted prices and Coral also have more options so if you want a choice of boosted prices then this is the place to go too. Coral have some of the best and most innovative money back promotions around all of the biggest fights.
Coral tend to lead the way with offers and then other bookies go and copy them later down the line. If you want to get a new or different type of money back deal, then pay them a visit. The market depth is well above average too and they’ve got some of the best news, results and stats sections for these sports of any operators.
How To Bet On Boxing, UFC and MMA
Betting on boxing is very straight forward compared to many sports. Bouts are fought between just two competitors which means markets focus around the match result, round result, score or points, and method of victory.
Of course some bets offer better value than others and in this section we discuss the relative merits of different bet types available for UFC, Boxing and other MMA events.
To Win Flight / Match Up Betting
This is the most common market available and you will find this is also therefore the most competitive. A quick scan of an odds comparison website will show you where you can get the best raw odds and this is also the main market for attracting the best betting offers.
The main problem with outright result betting is many fights are not evenly matched and this means there are often strong favourites against long odds outsiders. In this scenario many would prefer to bet on other markets where returns are more favourable.
For UFC the outright result market is often termed ‘Match Up’ but basically it is the same thing, who will win the fight.
Punters can bet before a fight on which round their fighter will win in. This is a good way of getting better odds on the favourite if you have a strong opinion on how long the fight might last. This line is generally not as competitive so it’s worth having a bookie you trust to give you good odds if you like to place these bets. It is also unlikely you’ll see many offers for this market.
Round betting in play is more popular but of course as the fight progresses the odds will decrease.
The round betting market is also where you can bet on the fight being awarded by decision or technical decision in boxing or by points in UFC. Here you can also wager on a draw or technical draw.
Total Rounds – Over/Under
There are two choices with this market, either wager on the exact number of rounds or bet over/under a given number of rounds. This obviously is higher in boxing than UFC, in boxing the average over/under value will be between 7.5 to 10.5, for UFC this will be 1.5 or 2.5.
Total round betting is competitive enough that odds tend to be decent and you do occasionally get offers or enhanced price boosts for this type of bet.
Many bookies will only offer you just a single over/under market but more will be available on request if you get in touch with them.
Grouped Round Betting
Round group betting is a variation on round betting but instead of betting on the exact round a fighter will win in you instead predict the result within a range of rounds, for example, rounds 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. It is also possible to bet on the win, decision, technical decision or draw/technical draw within these ranges.
Bookie margins for this bet type will not be as good for the punter compared with the outright result so it is only really worth placing these bets if you again have a strong opinion on when the fight will finish.
Round by Round In Play
The best way to place multiple bets on the same flight is to bet round by round during the fight in play. This is only really worth doing if you are watching the fight live so that you can make informed wagers.
William Hill are a good bookie for this type of wager, since they boost prices live in play and have tons of in play specials for Sky and Box Nation fights.
Fight to go the Distance
This is a simple yes or no wager however it can be a good option in fights where there are strong favourites.
Let’s say you have a 1/10 favourite and you think he will win the fight. Unless you have a lot of spare cash to stake then it’s not worth betting on him at that price. If, however you think his opponent is good enough to take the fight the whole distance this can be a better option to give bigger returns. Again this market occasionally attracts a promotion or two.
Fight Outcome / Method of Victory
Different bookies have various names for this market and they will often have a different terminology for boxing compared to UFC. The bet is fairly self-explanatory, you need to predict how the fight will ultimately end.
Here you can wager on just one fight outcome such as knockout, technical knockout, draw, technical draw, disqualification, submission, fight stopped by referee, etc. Alternatively, there are groups bets available where you can predict the fight to end in a range of ways, e.g for UFC you could punt on the fight to end by Knockout, technical knockout, disqualification or submission vs. decision or technical decision vs. draw.
Again don’t expect amazing prices for these bets, you will also only find this kind of market depth with the bigger bookies or our recommended betting sites. It is however quite common to see promotions for this market so be on the lookout and keep an eye on our latest boxing offers if you like to bet this way.
Many bookies are now offering prices on possible future bouts or match ups but are these worth betting on? In many ways no because it means locking down your stake for potentially a long time and the fight might not even go ahead. There are times however where this market will give you a much better price than if you were to wait.
If you think for example your fighter is going to improve hugely over the next few months then this is a fantastic way to lock in some good odds.
Another common wager is to predict the next fighter to win their division, championship or belt. This is a great market again if you think you’ve spotted the next heavyweight champion before everyone else.
Prices vary wildly for this type of bet so it really is worth shopping around. Many online bookmakers will not display prices for this so you may need to get in touch with them for odds.
Multiple bets are becoming more common especially for UFC events where there are several fights in a session. Accumulators and accumulator offers are becoming more and more common so it is worth shopping around if you are considering a combination bet. I’ve seen good deals from BetVictor for UFC accumulators so that might be a good one to start with.
Live In Play Betting and Streaming
Boxing and UFC are perfect live betting sports. The nature of a fighting sports means it all comes down to the fighters on the day with very few other variables. Unlike other sports the equipment and venue has minimal impact on the final results.
The best way to bet in play is to watch the fight and try to spot changes in the fighter’s attitude and ability and get your bet on before the bookies odds change. This is one reason why round by round and points betting is so popular in play.
Pretty much all bookies will offer some in live markets, even if it is just the final result. Many of our recommended betting sites provide more expansive markets and so if you are a regular in play bettor on fighting sports you will be better off in the long run with someone like Ladbrokes.
Big boxing and UFC bouts generate such large amounts of cash through the selling of TV rights that there is not much in the way of streaming of top level flights by online bookmakers. Many of our top sites provide in play graphics and some have audio commentaries but to get the best out of in play betting you should watch the fight live on TV.
Most high level boxing in the UK is broadcast on Sky Sports or Box Nation.
News, Results and Statistics
The best place to get news and statistics is from our top boxing bookies. Generally the bigger bookmakers have the best features, of particular note is William Hill’s statistics and news sections for advance previews and information.
History of Boxing
Fist fighting is as old as human history, let’s be honest we were hitting each other way before we could talk to each other.
Fighting as a sport however is documented as far back as the 3rd century BC where depictions from the Sumerians, and later the Assyrians and Babylonians, show men fighting with fists covered in cloth or other materials.
The Greeks were the first to organise the sport, making it part of the original Olympic games in the 6th century BC. They believed that their Gods practiced fist fighting as a game and so it became part of ancient Greek culture. Contestants often bound their fists in leather to prevent serious injury and it is likely the sport was used just as much as a means to prepare for battle as to satisfy the gods.
Of course, like most things to do with fighting, the Romans took this a step further. They developed a battle glove known as a cestus, pitted with studs to cause maximum damage. Fighters, usually slaves, would compete in fights to the death in amphitheatres for the amusement of the emperor and the Roman people. I’m not so sure you could call this much of a sport for the contestants however.
Boxing died away somewhat in recorded history between the end of the Roman empire and the 17th century. This is generally down to later cultures abolishing fights to the death as entertainment combined with the popularity of newer forms of combat during the middle ages ages such as jousting and sword fighting.
Bare-knuckle prizefighting emerged in the late 1600’s in Britain with the first recorded champion James Figg taking the title in 1719 and reigning until 1730. Figg is often referred to as the father of modern boxing and was also known as a sword fighter and fencer. It was also around this time that the word boxing was also first used to describe fist fighting.
Written rules first emerged in 1743 from champion Jack Broughton (the Broughton rules) to protect fighters form serious injury. These rules introduced the count when a fighter is downed and prevented hitting while on the ground, the rules also stipulated no hitting below the waist. Unlike modern rules however there were no time limits on rounds, with rounds continuing until a fighter was downed.
The famous Marquess of Queensbury rules were composed in 1867 for amateur championship bouts held at Lille Bridge in London. Written by John Chambers there were 12 rules in all that stipulated:
- Boxing should be a stand-up fight in a 24 square foot ring.
- Hugging or any form of wrestling is not allowed.
- Rounds should last three minutes with a one minute rest in between.
- If a fighter is downed they must get up, unassisted, within 10 seconds. At this time the other fighter must return to their corner.
- Any fighter holding the ropes with toes off the ground is considered down.
- No one else other than the two fighters and referee are to be permitted into the ring during the fight.
- If the fight is interrupted a continuance must be agreed or alternatively a draw announced.
- Good quality and fair sized gloves to be used.
- If a glove comes off or is damaged it must be replaced to the satisfaction of the referee.
- A man on one knee is considered down and must not be hit.
- Spiked boots are banned
- Fights to be governed in all other regards by London Prize Ring Rules.
The introduction of ‘fair sized’ gloves under the Queensbury rules meant fights began to last longer and became more tactical with greater weight given to defensive blocks and manoeuvres. The old stance of leaning back with arms outstretched, common in bare knuckle boxing, was also replaced by a more modern stance with the body tilted forward and arms closer to the chest.
Puritan Victorian values in both Britain and the US did not lend themselves well to the sport of bare-knuckle boxing. The court case of R vs Coney in 1882, which found bare-knuckle fighting was effectively ABH, despite the fighters’ consent, ended legal public bare-knuckle fights in Britain.
This therefore saw the popularity of the ‘less barbaric’ Queensbury rules prevail and the first heavyweight champion Jim ‘the Gentleman’ Corbett won the first title in 1892 in New Orleans beating John Sullivan.
Over the next fifty years boxing as a sport struggled for legitimacy. In the US in particular it was banned in many conservative states and yet loved in the likes of Nevada (no surprise therefore that Las Vegas is the home of the biggest prize fights today).
The sport became progressively safer with the introduction of the mouth guard in the early 1900’s and the establishment of the National Boxing Association in 1927 followed by the International Boxing Association after WWII in 1946. These bodies arranged bouts between the best talents in boxing while also looking to promote ethics and sportsmanship to improve the image of the sport.
Despite calls by many for the sport to be banned, and some evidence to suggest long term brain damage in some instances, the sport has only gone from strength to strength. Today there are no less than three major international organisations; the World Boxing Council (WBC), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Association (WBA).
Top level fights today can generate hundreds of millions in revenue for the boxers and promoters making high level fighters some of the best paid sportsmen on the planet.
Illegal Boxing and Betting
You can place a legitimate bet on boxing with hundreds of bookmakers these days from all over the world. This wasn’t always the case however.
For many years betting on the sport was illegitimate and so secret bouts were held in pub basements, disused warehouses and derelict buildings. Here unlicensed bookmakers would take bets on the winner – you just had to hope the fight wasn’t fixed and that they’d still be around at the end of the fight to pay out!
Underground bare-knuckle boxing was commonplace, even until recently, although the rise of new forms of mixed martial arts, such as UFC, seem to have reduced this to a minimum.
Not too much has changed really since the introduction of the Queensbury rules. Bouts are still made up of three minute rounds with a minute break in between, and most professional boxing goes on for up to 12 rounds.
A match is presided over by a referee and usually three judges. If the fight ‘goes the distance’ and no fighter is the clear winner within the given number of rounds then the fight will go to a judge’s decision. Throughout the fight judges award points for connecting punches, defensive moves, knockdowns as well as other factors. The subjective nature of this type of judging often means results made by decision are often controversial.
Boxers can win a fight within the set number of rounds by knockout (KO). Here the opponent must be downed for the count of ten seconds at which point the referee will end the fight and award victory.
Fights can also be ended by technical knockout (TKO), this happens when the referee, fight doctor or fighters corner decide the fight cannot continue safely.
Boxers are not allowed to hit below the belt, the back or back of the head, they are also not allowed to spit, bite, head-butt, kick, trip, push or hold their opponent. Boxers must also only hit with a clenched fist inside a regulation glove, no other part of the arm may be used. Fighters are not allowed to use the ropes for support or while punching. If any rules are broken a boxer can incur fouls from the referee resulting in a points penalty decided by the judges. If the referee deems an offense, or series of offenses, serious enough he can disqualify a fighter.
Rarely matches are drawn on both rounds and points, although this does occur, but in less than 1 in 50 fights.
Amateur and Professional Boxing
Boxing at the highest level is ultimately motivated by the prize money on offer and so professional boxing dominates the sport with one major exception, the Olympic and commonwealth games. Amateur boxing was added to the Olympic programme in 1908 and has since become one of the most popular Olympic sports.
Amateur boxing rules are almost identical to professional level although contests are shorter consisting usually of just three rounds. Fights are points based with judges awarding points for clean blows landed to the head or torso. Fighters also wear protective head guards to reduce injury.
Professional boxing matches are generally much longer with top level matches these days consisting of 12 rounds. In the early 1900’s unlimited round bouts were common and until the 80’s 15 rounds was the convention. The death in 1982 of Duk Koo Kim who fell into a coma in the 14th round, dying four days later, lead to the World Boxing Council to reduce the limit to 12 rounds. WBA, WBO and IBF followed soon after.
A professional boxer can take a lot more damage before the referee will halt the fight, does not wear head gear and must be bare chested (if male of course).
History of UFC and MMA
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a mixed martial art competition run by a company based out of Las Vegas who run events in 11 weight categories all over the world. The first championship was held in Denver in 1993 at which time there were few rules with fighters of multiple martial art displaces competing in effect to find out which marital art was the most effective.
Over time UFC fighters created their own styles combining the martial arts of boxing, karate, jiu-jitsu, judo, wrestling and others to create a unique style that became known as mixed martial arts or MMA. UFC today is a thoroughly corporate entity generating revenue from over 300 worldwide events through TV and web subscription services.
Despite the founders and promoters claims that UFC was supposed to be a one off the spectacle rapidly expanded. In the early days UFC pushed the tagline ‘there are no rules’ and this was largely true, you could basically do anything except eye gouge or bite.
By the end of the 1990’s UFC had gained a reputation as a violet form of human cockfighting (according to US senator John McCain ) leading to UFC being banned in almost two thirds of the US states. UFC was forced to reform and became more professional introducing more rules and establishing weight classes.
During this time UFC nearly went out of existence before recovering in the early 2000’s through a series of TV and DVD releases. UFC 40 in 2002 nearly sold out the MGM Arena as well as selling hundreds of thousands of TV subscriptions. These changing fortunes showed the sport was finally beginning to enter the mainstream.
UFC changed tact in 2005 launching a TV reality series called The Ultimate Fighter with winners earning six figure contracts. The success of this and subsequent features such as UFC Fight Night and UFC Unleashed increased UFC’s exposure and set in motion the phenomenal rise of the sport.
The following decade saw UFC expand into foreign markets and attract ever more mainstream TV channels and audiences. In 2016 UFC was purchased by a celebrity and entrepreneur group called WME-IMG for $4,200,000,000.
Rules & How UFC / MMA Works
In the early days there were so few rules that this section would be blank, however following the wide scale banning and subsequent reform of UFC in the late 1990’s a set of rules established by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board in 2001 was universally adopted.
Known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts they stipulate rounds are to last 5 minutes with a 1 minute rest break and matches can be up to 5 rounds. Fighters must wear approved shorts and open fingered gloves and other protective equipment such as a mouthguard.
Bouts are judged on a ten-point system with the winner receiving ten points and the loser receiving 9 points or less. Penalty points for fouls are taken off from the final score following the decision from the three judges.
There are eleven weight classes ranging from Atomweight (less than 47.6kg) up to Super Heavyweight (over 120.3kg with no maximum limit).
Matches can end by submission, knockout, technical knockout, a judges decision, disqualification or a forfeit.
There are now a range of fouls that go far beyond the original ban on eye gouging and biting. Fighters can basically no longer perform the nasty tricks from groin grabs to fish hooks and are even barred from using offensive language.
UFC fights take place in an eight-sided octagonal cage called the Octagon. This usually measures 9 meters across with a nearly 2-meter-high chain link fence.
Odds and Payouts
If backing a winner in a big fight then you can get some of the most competitive odds around. Check out any odds comparison site or widget and you will find nearly all bookies will be competing to offer the best prices and this competition means you can find some great prices for those lines.
The difficulty comes in finding competitive odds for more obscure markets or smaller fights that intrinsically generate less coverage.
If backing a method of victory or round betting it can be a lot more hit and miss trying to find the best prices. Many of these lines won’t be covered on odds comparison sites and so you will either need to shop around yourself or find a bookie that you trust to give you decent prices.
If you bet with any of our recommended online bookmakers at the top of this article however you should find the market depth you need with fair odds.
In general it is better to assume payout limits will be on the lower side when it comes to boxing, and especially UFC and MMA.
Many bookies will have maximum limits of around £10,000 and some as low as £1,000. If you are placing big bets, or a smaller stake wager at high odds, then it is really worth finding a bookmaker that will pay you out fully if you do win:
The example below is taken from one of them:
- Boxing – £250,000 for all Boxing markets.
- UFC – £25,000 for all UFC markets.