The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and DraftKings entered into a gambling partnership that was announced early Thursday morning.
“Historic” and “groundbreaking” — we have heard this lofty language before with regards to partnerships between sportsbooks and sports organizations, but what does this deal change for bettors and fans?
Under the deal, DraftKings, based out of Boston where UFC President Dana White is from, becomes the exclusive UFC sportsbook and daily fantasy sports partner in North America. It looks like the UFC has officially given Flutter Entertainment, the parent of FanDuel, the boot, at least in North America. Flutter’s PokerStars brand has been a similar partner with the UFC. No announcement on the end of that 2018 arrangement was announced, but it appears to have expired or at least been augmented.
According to a presser, DraftKings “will now be able to offer in-game promotions, activations, in-broadcast odds integrations and UFC branding across its daily fantasy and betting products and will possess rights to use official UFC marks and logos. On a weekly basis, DraftKings will also provide fans with free-to-play UFC games as well as enhanced prop bets and other innovative sportsbook opportunities.”
The agreement with UFC provides DraftKings with a branded presence on the octagon canvas at “select UFC events.” That seems to mean events held in the U.S. and Canada. It is worth noting that the UFC’s home base for holding events is in Las Vegas, where DraftKings isn’t allowed to offer traditional sports betting over the internet. It is able to offer DFS contests there, however.
The UFC licenses in-fight data to rivals of DraftKings for the purposes of wagering during a bout, so it does not appear DraftKings will have a monopoly on this. In late 2019, the UFC announced the launch of an in-house product called UFC Event Centre. The idea was to boost in-fight wagering, which at the time represented 8% of UFC betting activity. Most people bet the day of the fights and before they start.
The deal reportedly is for five years and worth $350 million.
UFC Fight Clock to debut this weekend
Arguably the unique element of the DraftKings-UFC deal is a new clock around the octagon equipped with the DraftKings logo. DraftKings will serve as the “presenting partner” of the so-called Fight Clock.
In the presser, the new clock was described as “proprietary” and “innovative,” but it is entirely unclear how that is so. The presser did not say anything about the Fight Clock in relation to in-fight wagering, so it does not appear to have anything to do with improving that product. UFC broadcasts of course have an accurate fight clock on the bottom center of the screen at all times for viewers.
The new Fight Clock will be placed around the octagon “to provide fighters and fans [in attendance] with the most accurate time-keeping system in combat sports.” That is complete nonsense, as other MMA promotions have accurate time keeping. This is not an issue that has been talked about in the MMA world. The UFC is touting the clocks as having “the most flexible high-definition screens in the world.”
“The UFC Fight Clock is integrated directly into UFC’s production technology, allowing athletes, fans, and officials in the arena to see the same countdown clock per round as viewers watching the broadcast,” the presser stated. “There will be up to four UFC Fight Clocks displayed on UFC’s world-famous octagon, giving fighters a view of at least one clock from any vantage point.”
It is an unexpected addition for the UFC. Fighters already can often see a clock, depending on their position in the fight. More clocks at close to ground level on the cage would give fighters a greater ability to see how much time is left. The thing is that many fighters do not look at the clock even when they can and looking at it is somewhat frowned upon.
They are in a fight, after all, and the clock is not supposed to matter too much in how they perform in a five-minute round. If a fighter has ever complained about not enough access to looking at a clock while competing, it is exceedingly rare. Instead, the UFC is sometimes criticized for not having live scoring in the fight, whether visible to the fans or the fighters or both.
A demand for more clock screens has not been a thing in recent memory until the UFC apparently could monetize them with a sportsbook logo. It is a gimmick for fight fans.