As we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, sports fans of all kinds are champing at the bit, sitting at home and counting the days until we all get back to deciding which sporting event we will have on our TVs that evening. With little to no options for live events, Chairman and CEO of WWE, Vince McMahon successfully held Wrestlemania 36 last weekend behind closed doors at the WWE Performance Center with no live audience in attendance. The outcome was a historic two-night event which ended up shattering digital records across the board.
According to Nielsen Social, WrestleMania 36 was the most social event in WWE history, with more than 13.8 million total social media interactions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, up 57 percent in comparison to last year’s event. Additionally, a record 46 million hours of content was taken in by WWE Network viewers during the week, resulting in an increase of 20 percent year-over-year.
Your move, UFC.
Less than 24 hours after WWE’s biggest event of the year, Dana White, UFC President, took to social media to update fight fans with a spark they were looking for.
The post, along with a picture of Tony Ferguson electronically signing his contract to face new opponent Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight belt, caused an immediate buzz. It was followed up with an official 12-fight card to round out the event.
Things are very fluid and ever changing, but here’s what we know just 10 days out from the upcoming event.
THE MAIN EVENT:
Lightweight Interim Title Bout: #1 Tony Ferguson (25-3) vs. #4 Justin Gaethje (21-2)
So where’s Khabib Nurmagomedov? Khabib was set to headline the card and defend his title against Tony Ferguson, a matchup that has now been scheduled five times. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the bout fell through yet again. By no fault of Khabib, he headed back to Russia to be with his family and continued to train until a location was set. While awaiting plans, travel restrictions were put in place, resulting in Khabib being unable to exit Russia. Now, Khabib awaits the winner of Ferguson/Gaethje, and for that matter a location, to defend his title for a third time.
THE REST OF THE CARD:
Women’s Strawweight Bout: #1 Jessica Andrade (20-7) vs. #2 Rose Namajunas (8-4)
Heavyweight Bout: Greg Hardy (5-2) vs. Yorgan De Castro (6-0)
Welterweight Bout: #13 Vincente Luque (17-7-1) vs. Niko Price (14-3)
Featherweight Bout: #7 Jeremy Stephens (28-17) vs. #9 Calvin Kattar (20-4)
Heavyweight Bout: #2 Francis Ngannou (14-3) vs. #6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0)
Middleweight Bout: #10 Uriah Hall (15-9) vs. #14 Ronaldo Souza (26-8)
Lightweight Bout: #15 Alexander Hernandez (11-2) vs. #15 Omar Morales (9-0)
Bantamweight Bout: #14 Marlon Vera (17-5-1) vs. Ray Borg (13-4)
Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson (19-15) vs. Khama Worthy (15-6)
Women’s Bantamweight Bout: #15 Sijara Eubanks (4-4) vs. Sarah Moras (6-5)
Light Heavyweight Bout: Ryan Spann (17-5) vs. Sam Alvey (33-13)
Though not officially confirmed by the UFC as of yet, there have been multiple detailed reports (first reported by Jeff Sherwood) that UFC 249 will take place at The Tachi Palace Casino Resort, near Fresno, California. Although the California State Athletic Commission extended a ban on combat sports events through the end of May, a potential loophole could allow the event to take place as the land is owned by the Tachi-Yokut Tribe and does not fall under the jurisdiction of CSAC or the statewide stay-at-home orders issued several weeks ago by California Governor, Gavin Newsom.
In other news, Dana White has also teased that he is a day or two away from securing a private island to host fights. Time will tell.
THE BETTING LINES:
Lines came out almost immediately following the fight card announcement, which put bettors to work quickly from their keyboards isolated at home.
I had a chance to catch up with William Hill’s U.S. Director of Trading, Nick Bogdanovich, to ask a few questions regarding this upcoming card.
Casey: You were one of, if not the first to post lines on the entire fight card shortly after its announcement. First off, thank you for doing so. Secondly, with the lines now up, have you seen any early wagers out of the shoots?
Nick: The largest we’ve taken so far was $19,000 on Tony Ferguson on Nevada Mobile at -180.
Casey: Tell us where you opened the main event and were there any factors that led you to this number?
Nick: We opened Ferguson at -180 and currently have him at -200 and Gaethje +170. Obviously the biggest factor we had to try to gauge is what kind of shape Gaethje is in, or can be in. Ferguson is in top shape and preparing for the fight of his career, while Gaethje is likely not where he would like to be going against a top performer. Endurance could play a huge factor if the fight goes deep. Another factor was Ferguson’s mind set. Will he be let down because he didn’t get the fight of his dreams? Human nature has to say a little. But he knows if he doesn’t take care of business here the Khabib fight might not happen, or if it does it won’t be as hyped and significant.
Casey: With limited action available as the entire sports world is shut down due to this COVID-19 pandemic, can bettors expect the possibility of any added prop plays for UFC 249?
Nick: We will have a method of victory for every fight, which we only usually do for the top fights. We’ll have a round distance in every fight and we’ll rack our brains to possibly come up with some others. But remember we have regulatory bodies to answer to, so things like “who the winner thanks first” are off the table.
Casey: Lastly, where can bettors place their wagers with William Hill during this time of social distancing?
Nick: Our Mobile Apps in Nevada, New Jersey, Iowa and Rhode Island. We’re happy to be able to put up events for people looking for a distraction during these tough times.
We are getting close, fight fans. Let’s see what transpires over the next 10 days.
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