The first major live American sporting event since early March is upon us.
Besides April’s NFL Draft, bettors stateside looking for action have had to turn to overseas contests like Russian table tennis, Nicaraguan soccer and Korean baseball. But this weekend they’ll finally be able to wager on a professional sporting event happening on their home soil.
A loaded 12-fight card is set for Saturday’s highly anticipated UFC 249 (6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. CT, ESPN+ PPV) in Jacksonville, Florida. With the nation entrenched in the battle against the coronavirus, it’s a positive sign of a return to normalcy.
The UFC has taken broad measures to ensure the safety of Saturday’s participants — including obtaining COVID-19 tests, separating members of the broadcast team and electing not to conduct post-fight interviews from the octagon.
Two title fights highlight the card. Tony Ferguson (25-3) is a consensus -185 favorite against Justin Gaethje (21-2) for the interim lightweight championship in the main event. The other title fight pits Henry Cejudo (15-2) against Dominick Cruz (22-2) for the bantamweight championship.
So where has the betting action been heading into the weekend?
“By far the Ferguson fight has (the) most money right now,” Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading at William Hill, told BetChicago via text message on Friday morning.
Ticket counts were split pretty evenly between Ferguson vs. Gaethje at William Hill as of Thursday, but Ferguson was getting 72% of the money.
A lack of noteworthy line movement seems to be the consensus at most sportsbooks as Saturday approaches.
“There hasn’t been significant movement on this card to this point,” Rex Beyers, Senior Sports Trader at Caesars, told BetChicago via email. “That might change once we get within the last 12 hours before the main event starts, but nothing to this point has been notable.”
According to Westgate SuperBook vice president of risk management Ed Salmons, his shop saw some sharp money come in on Gaethje, currently a +165 consensus underdog against Ferguson.
In the penultimate bout, Cruz is enjoying the majority of tickets and money wagered at William Hill as a 2/1 consensus underdog. At the Westgate, Cejudo is a -240 favorite against Cruz, who is entering the octagon for the first time since December 2016.
Former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy makes his return to the octagon Saturday. The 31-year-old has taken money in the marketplace this week, getting bet up to -195 at William Hill after opening a -180 favorite in his heavyweight matchup against Yorgan de Castro. Some books have moved Hardy to as high as -210 in a fight that features a noticeable size discrepancy.
Here are the matchups and odds for Saturday’s stacked card.
Updated UFC 249 odds
Via Westgate SuperBook, as of Friday afternoon
Tony Ferguson -185
Justin Gaethje +165
Henry Cejudo -240
Dominick Cruz +200
Francis Ngannou -270
Jairzinho Rozenstruik +230
Calvin Kattar -260
Jeremy Stephens +220
Greg Hardy -210
Yorgan De Castro +180
Anthony Pettis -150
Donald Cerrone +130
Fabricio Werdum -330
Aleksei Oleinik +270
Ronaldo Souza -115
Uriah Hall -105
Vicente Luque -280
Niko Price +240
Bryce Mitchell -160
Charles Rosa +140
Ryan Spann -450
Sam Alvey +375
Carla Esparza -145
Michelle Waterson +125
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