Visited by over 35 million people each year, Las Vegas has truly earned its stripes as the Entertainment Capital of the World. Think Vegas and you think glamor, parties and winning big, but the first thing that springs to mind is not necessarily the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Until now.
When the UFC began in the early 1990s it was intended to be a one-off, a singular event pitching the best fighters from differing disciplines against each other to discover which style really was the ultimate. Scoring over 85,000 on pay-per-view subscriptions the organisers realised that there was real interest in the new sport, and since then the UFC has, quite literally, gone from strength to strength. A truly global brand, bouts travel the globe to give millions of fans the chance to witness high-octane fighting as hard-hitters battle it out in The Octagon.
However, the good news for Nevada remains that the UFC will always have a home in Vegas. UFC 114 heads to the world-renowned MGM Grand Garden Arena, so residents of Sin City can be sure that the UFC will pounding its canvas in the not-too distant future, returning since the success of the landmark UFC 100. Held at the famous Mandalay Bay Events Centre, this card was widely regarded as the best UFC event in its history, holding not only two championship bouts (heavyweight and welterweight) but also a title-unification bout, won by UFC legend Brock Lesnar.
With its self-styled “no holds barred” approach, it is unsurprising that UFC is quickly taking over boxing in terms of global popularity, altrhough it has come a long way since the early days of the sport. In the mid 1990s, Senator John McCain branded UFC “human cockfighting”, an allegation that led to it being banned in several states. UFC responded by introducing new rules and regulations, including disallowing head butts and kicks to the groin. This change in tack allowed the sport to be once more welcomed into the mainstream commercial arena, whilst its notoriety generated the buzz that accompanies it wherever it traverses the globe.
Now the world’s favourite fighting sport, the UFC broke the pay-per-view industry’s all time record for business in a single year, generating a revenue of well-over $200million in 2006, superceding both boxing and WWE. A year later, UFC surpassed boxing for the first time in betting revenues, as highrollers around the globe flocked to betting halls to lay money on fighters with whom they were fast becoming accquainted.
This trend has snowballed, cementing UFC’s place as the favourite fighting sport of the wagerer. Both in from the sidewalk and from the comfort of the home, odds on fighters are given higher regard than the more traditional arena of boxing. Depending on the site or provider, there are also marginals to bet against, including the more general match bets, round bets and even method of victory (usually either submission, points or knock-out). Of course, the most favoured is that of the knock-out, clearly the most exciting result for any fighting sport as the audience bays for that final power blow that renders the opponent cold.
It is precisely this torrent of adrenaline that is drawing an increasing number of party-goers to the UFC crowds of Vegas. Pumped and psyched from such a spectacle, crowds converge to casinos to carry on the carousal at the craps table.
Betting on UFC fight is becoming a big gambling business yet it is not only cards that are popular in Vegas. The traditional casino games are the norm, but there is also an increasing trend towards a much more continental game: bingo. Some halls even carry on the games until the early hours of the morning, with rooms holding up to six hundred eager bingoers baying for the caller to wet their dabber. Good news for those from outside the United States, in particular, although the game is as popular here as it is in Europe. Some visitors from other shores prefer to dip their beaks with a taste of home before they sample the home-grown delights of the desert sun. As the years progress, bingo is fast becoming the number one recreational pastime in the United States. What better than to take our home into the casinos with us?
“by Huseyin Polat“