Verdict MMA Launches DFS Product Created Specifically For Fight Fans

The popular score-at-home app enters the daily fantasy sports world

The verdict is in. Literally.

Verdict MMA is the latest company to dip its toes in the daily fantasy sports waters with a product designed specifically for MMA. Instead of the DraftKings/FanDuel method of picking fighters based on salary, Verdict’s design — called Verdict Tournaments and which went live last week in select states — is a much deeper dive.

Players choose the winner of the fight, the method of victory, and in what round the action will cease. Each of these options is assigned points based on the odds, and the more points you rack up, the higher up the leaderboard you go.

“It’s a DFS platform uniquely crafted for MMA — really, the first real-money niche platform,” said Sanjay Thakur, Verdict’s co-founder and CEO. “We’re able to cater a product to a certain community. Typically, you have larger operators apply conventional methods across the board — like salary caps, for example. And that doesn’t really work for MMA. You can’t really draft a ‘team.’  In our model, you’re picking who you think will win and how you think will win. This is a lot more in tune with MMA than the typical salary model.”

Last week, after years of design, the product launched, and more than 2,300 people participated in over 170 different DFS contests comprised of the typical fare — H2H, 50/50s, and tournaments. In addition, another 20,000-plus Verdict MMA users played free versions of the DFS contests, which the company had been rolling out for months in anticipation of launch.

DFS not the OG feature

Verdict MMA wasn’t born yesterday. In fact, the company has been around for a few years now, existing as a space for MMA fans to congregate and score the fights as they watch them.

Thakur and his friends used to watch MMA together in high school, and he remembers a specific fight between George St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks from 2013 that first crystallized their future plans.

“At the end of the fight, we were discussing who we thought won, and we thought Hendricks won,” Thakur said. “But the fight swayed in the other direction and GSP took the victory. We were confused, but also thinking we couldn’t be the only ones who were confused. So we created this platform that would allow people to submit scores and predictions, and over the years we’ve grown this community and people are loving it.”

Thakur and his friends, Mandeep Singh Olma and David Chung, have not only “grown” this community — they’ve darn near exploded it. For an average UFC fight night, Verdict has about 80% of its registered users — who number over 100,000 — studiously watching and scoring the fights in real time. (Sportsbooks would do terrible things for that type of conversion rate.)

The majority of the time, the crowdsourced scoring matches up reasonably well with the judges’ scorecards, Thakur said. But sometimes it doesn’t, and this is where Verdict MMA is really hoping to make a serious dent in the way MMA fights are scored. In fact, the company hopes to one day have trained judges littered throughout its user base, and then partner with the UFC (or other organizations) to have these people actually scoring the fights. Think dozens, if not hundreds, of people doing this at once, creating a theoretically more level judging system.

In the meantime, Thakur and Co. hope their DFS product cuts through some of the noise and gives their customers some real-money interest in their otherwise free product.

“People are really interested in [sports] betting, and MMA is just growing in popularity,” Thakur said. “Our timing is accidentally pretty good.”

Photo: Paul Miller/USA TODAY


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