20 bucks on the little guy – you can now gamble on MMA in New Zealand

Ahead of Mark Hunt’s fight against Frank Mir this weekend, the TAB is finally taking bets on the UFC. What happened, what does it mean, and. most importantly, who should you bet on? Don Rowe reports. 

In 2010 I sat five metres from a bulging and aged chicken-wire fence on the ground level of Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok. Before me, two 145lb fighters stood in a boxing ring, testing one another with long kicks to the stomach and legs. A live band played Sarama-style music over the stadium PA: two oboes, a pair of drums and a cymbal climbing and falling and winding demonically in tempo with the fighters’ pace.

Behind and above me, thousands of Thai enthusiasts waved wads of cash thick as a bakery sandwich, screaming at one another as the momentum swung in centre ring.

In 34 degree heat, 80% humidity, the scene was fevered and chaotic. This was closer to Wall Street than a day gambling at the races, no environment for a sheltered and weak Westerner to play the field. I’m used to streamlined apps, hand-picked betting guides and the ability to gamble from the couch with one hand hand in a bag of chips and the other wrapped around a beer.

For the most part, the TAB has made that a breeze. Problem is, with the exception of boxing, it has been all but impossible to bet on combat sports in New Zealand.

That all changed today.

For the first time ever, Kiwis can chuck a couple bucks on the big guy when Mark Hunt goes in to bat against Frank Mir this weekend in Brisbane. There’s also a pav-flavored multi in the works, with additional bets on Auckland’s Daniel Hooker and Dargaville ex-pat James Te Huna potentially tripling your money.

This is a big moment in New Zealand martial arts. Thousands of dollars that were previously gambled off-shore have been diverted into the coffers of an organisation that has given back considerable cash to the sports it takes bets on. For a sport struggling for recognition on a governmental level, it’s a step in the right direction.


Lucas McIver, MMA superfan and one of several admins of the UFC and Combat Sports New Zealand Facebook page, says he’s been betting on MMA over the internet for several years, but finds it a frustrating process.

“I’ve been using offshore sites like 5dimes, Sportsbet Australia and bet365 as well as a bookie I know in Vegas for a couple of years off and on. It’s a pain in the arse to to use though, as you run into issues around gambling laws, and you’re unable to use NZ credit cards to deposit and withdraw cash.”

For McIver, the attraction of betting isn’t purely found in squeezing every dollar for it’s maximum value.

“Placing multis on the prelims really adds to the excitement of fights you otherwise wouldn’t have much interest in. Joe Bloggs from Alaska vs John Doe from Nebraska is all of a sudden quite interesting if you need one of them to win for your multi to hit.”

However through the aforementioned bookie, whose name cannot be revealed here or anywhere, McIver has still collected some decent scalps, most notably last December in Vegas.

“MMA is notoriously tough to bet on, but I’m up a bit at the moment. When I was in Vegas for UFC 194, McGregor vs Aldo, I had $300 on Luke Rockhold to beat Chris Weidman. That returned $750.”

A warning: you will lose money betting on MMA. Probably all of it. In a sport where a +653 underdog can beat the ‘greatest female fighter of all time’ unconscious in under three rounds, there’s no such thing as a sure bet. Hell, Matt Serra proved it when he knocked out GOAT-contender Georges St Pierre as a +700 underdog back in 2007.

That being said, McIver has a few gems to offer the wannabe shark.

“The ‘Kiwi Multi’, Dan Hooker, James Te Huna and Hunt, will triple your money. But Alan Patrick, Alan Jouban and Antonio Carlos Jr should also be a safe bet as a multi, almost doubling your money. As a long odds bet, James Te Huna could win by decision, which is paying $7. Both guys in that fight are coming off losses, and long periods out of the sport could mean they’re gun-shy early.”

I may or may not have taken McIver’s advice just this afternoon.

The TAB is taking bets on the main event right up until 6pm Sunday, and have indicated they hope to offer betting options on further UFC cards in the future.

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