The Ultimate Fighting Championship promotes mixed martial arts, which allows contestants to make use of a variety of traditional martial arts, like karate, jiu-jitsu, and kickboxing. But, at the same time, it permits opponents to include boxing and wrestling fighting styles. MMA is considered to be an extreme combat sport. Thus, it is not without risks.
The UFC caters to both men and women martial arts fighters. It started with its debut in 1993, with the first champion being Brazil’s Royce Gracie. By 2011, it had grown to be the biggest company of its kind across the globe. The UFC, based in Las Vegas, Nev., has been guided by a single president since 2001, Dana White. Interestingly, as we shall see, the president is also a keen visitor to casinos.
Today, the UFC incorporates 12 weight divisions, four for females and eight for males, and is worth billions of dollars. It is responsible for MMA events around the world. The UFC is regulated by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, a stringent set of regulations.
With this overview of the UFC, we proceed to draw comparisons between this sport and gambling to understand the appeal of casinos to MMA fighters. Thereafter, we look at the intersection of UFC fighters with lovers of casinos, using a few notable examples.
What The UFC Has in Common with Casinos
The UFC has its fighters, and casinos have their players. But, in this instance, the two apply to the very same persons. We take a look at what they have in common.
MMA is a challenging sport that also carries the risk of physical injury. Casinos offer the same level of stimulation and the urge to win, minus the possibility of getting hurt. The UFC is sponsored by online and traditional casinos, as well as other donors. With this connection between the two industries – casinos and martial arts – it is no wonder that so many MMA stars also rake in huge winnings in casinos and are prepared to take risks at the tables and slots.
Traditional MMA brought forth the masculine qualities of aggression, strength, competitiveness, and being tough. This was understandable as the sport initially catered to males. However, female mixed martial arts brought a focus on technique as more and more women took to the sport. Likewise, casinos were originally the realm of men only but today women are found playing at the same tables. And the combined qualities that men and women imbued mixed martial arts with can be seen at play in the strategies these UFC fighters bring to their casino games, where they often play for high stakes.
Dana White – President of the UFC Since 2001
Dana White has enjoyed profound success as a blackjack player. His aggressive business mind applied itself to placing the UFC at the forefront of mixed martial arts. In the same tone, he has used his fearlessness to take on the high stakes in poker at $25,000 a hand.
Dana White proved to be a great strategist in his company and at the tables. One casino banned him from playing poker there after two consecutive wins of $2 million and $5 million, respectively.
Lex Veldhuis, for short, was christened Alexander Bastiaan Martin Veldhuis. To many poker fans, he is better known for streaming poker tournaments on Twitch than as a mixed martial arts fighter. This Dutch fighter from the Netherlands has made poker his key profession and is viewed as a celebrity in the game. One notable game saw Lex Veldhuis make $62,620 from playing poker.
Veldhuis is an extremely confident poker player. He will put his entire allocation for the night onto a single game, believing this brings out the best in his abilities.
There is a well-known story in which Lex Veldhuis dared Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier (see below) to make a bet with him for a million-dollar kickboxing event in 2011. Veldhuis was sure he would win as neither of them had any previous experience in kickboxing. While Grospellier had strength on his side, Veldhuis was proficient with the coordination that he had learned as an MMA fighter. You can read the outcome of their exciting and long-awaited match here.
Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier
Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier is a successful poker player. Two of his achievements include winning titles for the European Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour. However, his claim to fame remains the fight Lex Veldhuis described above.
Terrence Chan differs from the other fighters who play casinos. He started his career as a poker player and not as a mixed martial arts fighter, whereas the others were fighters first and players second. Only once poker had shifted him into the ranks of millionaires did he sign up for MMA.
As a poker player, Chan achieved winnings adding up to $1.2 million. He won the title of World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). As a UFC fighter, Chan was adept at Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His first match was a resounding win with a knockout in the second round. His poker experience helped him to make strategic decisions in MMA in the moment.
Floyd Mayweather beat double-champion Conor McGregor in Las Vegas in 2017. The latter is ranked ninth in the UFC rankings for lightweights. The fight earned Mayweather $420 million and he retired from the support directly after this match. Mayweather’s preferred martial art in MMA was boxing and he was excellent at it.
Mayweather is equally proficient at gambling. He supports his gambling activities by charging fans $1,600 to meet him in person. He makes use of a Money Team to place his bets on MMA.
Looking at these examples of MMA fighters who were also good poker players, it is easy to see the similarities between the two industries in terms of the skills required.
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