The Biggest UFC Betting Scandals in History
Since sports betting has become legal and widespread in the US, the UFC’s messaging to its fighters on gambling integrity hasn’t always been as clear or consistent as the MMA promotion would like to think…
Tae Hyun Bang Vs Leo Kuntz at UFC Fight Night 79 (2015)
The first known-about betting scandal to come out of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) happened in 2015 and took place at UFC Fight Night 79 in Seoul, South Korea.
Former UFC Lightweight Tae Hyun Bang (18-10 MMA, 2-3 UFC) was sentenced to a 10-month prison term, after being found guilty of taking bribes, in connection with a plan to throw his fight against Leo Kuntz at UFC Fight Night 79.
Bang took a bribe of 100 million Won ($76,100), before the fight, from three brokers who set up the fix; they were also given jail terms for their roles. One of the brokers was reportedly MMA fighter Dae Won Kim. Additionally, Bang also bet half of his bribe on Kuntz, hoping to make himself a double pay day.
To fix the match, the plan was to lose the first two rounds. However, this plan was short-lived as the UFC noticed a huge swing in the betting lines; with Bang going from a favorite to a large underdog.
After the investigation was announced, his opponent, Kuntz, said to MMAJunkie magazine:
“The UFC seemed like they knew something was definitely not right. They told me it was the largest odd swing they’d seen in MMA and last minute. They told me, ‘Hey, if either one of you guys goes out there and doesn’t fight, you should prepare to be investigated.'”
However, at some point, Bang changed his mind about throwing the fight – and went on to win a split decision.
The Final Outcome
Following on from the fight, Bang reportedly received death threats from South Korean organized crime members, who had allegedly bet roughly $1.7 million on Kuntz to win; due to intel on the match-fix.
Alongside his 10-month prison sentence, Bang reportedly returned the money he was originally given from the brokers, but as for the mob's money… it appears Bang got off lightly.
After his win over Kuntz, Bang fought for the UFC once more in September 2016 and lost a unanimous decision to Nick Hein at UFC Fight Night 93. He has not fought since then and reportedly is no longer with the promotion.
Darrick Minner vs Shayilan Nuerdanbieke at UFC Fight Night 214 (2022)
This was arguably the biggest UFC betting scandal to ever occur. James Krause was a well-respected Welterweight fighter in the UFC, and he fought in the promotion from 2013-2020, prior to becoming a coach. Krause went on to coach Darrick Minner, before having himself and all of his students banned from the UFC over a betting scandal.
I’m At Where The Money Is At
Over a seven-year tenure, he won nine out of 13 fights within the UFC; holding an overall professional record of 28 wins and eight losses. However, Krause’s involvement in MMA gambling made it onto most people’s radar when he boasted, shortly after retiring from fighting, that he made more money betting on MMA than he ever has coaching.
“I bet every single card, just about every fight,” Krause said to MMA journalist Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, “I make more money gambling on MMA than I do anything else. I don’t make s**t on coaching, absolutely not.”
On November 5, 2022, controversy arose when the call for a sports betting fraud investigation was made on a fight, on the preliminary card, involving Minner - Krause’s student.
Leading up to the fight, similar to Tae Hyun Bang’s case, the UFC was informed that suspicious betting patterns had been spotted. After being a highly-anticipated favorite, Minner quickly became an underdog going into the fight, immediately raising suspicion. Additionally, the odds had massively increased not just for Nuerdanbieke to win, but for him to win via TKO.
Going into the fight Minner threw a kick (with a supposed injured leg), then kicked with the same leg again, and showed signs of injury. Shortly after, his opponent picked up a victory via TKO in just over a minute into the first round.
The fight raised suspicion regarding inside information, and with Krause being his coach and corner he is one of the few people that would know the most about Minner’s training camp.
Krause and Minner were later suspended indefinitely by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for failing to disclose his injury on the pre-fight medical questionnaire.
You Reap What You Sow
The repercussions of this UFC scandal were not prison time or a fine, but a straight out blacklist from the promotion. Krause has been banned from the UFC for life, so have any and all of his students (that continue to train under him).
Furthermore, when the investigation was undergoing, the Nevada State Athletic Commission informed the UFC and Krause that Krause’s license was suspended, and would remain so, until the investigation had come to a close.
A month after the fight, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement banned its sportsbooks from permitting betting on any events associated with Krause, as well as Ontario and Alberta removing the UFC from its sportsbooks altogether. Alberta has since reinstated UFC betting.
Krause’s betting scandal was the first major one the UFC had had thus far, and with all of the bad press that followed, they knew they had to do something. This led to the UFC’s partnership with US Integrity and the release of its Athlete Conduct Policy; which delves into the promotions gambling policies.
A Leopard Never Changes Its Spots
Krause made no secret of his affinity for MMA betting. In fact, he hosted a betting podcast called The 1% Club that was broadcast on the UFC's streaming platform, UFC Fight Pass. The episodes have since been removed.
The 1% Club was a subscription service where punters could pay to access Krause’s top betting tips and picks. It is said that users would pay between $50-$2,000 a month for this exclusive access.
The 1% Club Discord was shut down roughly three weeks after the Minner vs Neurdanbieke fight took place. Following this fight, the UFC released a statement that clarified on what its fighters (and their crew) can and cannot wager on.
Sam Hughes vs Jaqueline Amorim at UFC 287 (2023)
Despite the newly imposed ban and increased integrity monitoring, female UFC Strawweight contender, Sam Hughes seemed too comfortable when openly admitting to breaking these rules during an interview after her win at UFC 287.
A Controversial Confession
Hughes won her fight via unanimous decision against Jacqueline Amorim, after which she revealed that her boyfriend had bet $1,000 on her to win the bout.
This goes completely against the UFC’s Athlete Conduct Policy, which states that fighters, teammates, coaches and family members are not allowed to bet on any fight in the Octagon.
Judges had Amorim winning the first round after a dominant performance but Hughes bounced back and won both the second and third round; winning the unanimous decision victory.
In her post-fight press conference, Hughes freely admitted that her boyfriend placed a bet on her to win; clearly not aware of the consequences of letting that slip.
"My boyfriend told me he put a grand on me, which I wish he wouldn't have told me that. He owes me a very good dinner; I'll tell you that much," commented Hughes. A journalist asked when her boyfriend told her he placed the bet, and she responded, "...like a couple of days ago, I think I was like a +400 or something like that, so I was like, I love it.”
Consequences = Nowhere To Be Seen
Thus far there have been absolutely no consequences for Hughes revealing her breaking of the rules, however she was set to face Lupita Godinez on September 16, 2023, at UFC Fight Night 227 but that never ended up taking place. According to MMA Junkie, “The fight fell through from Hughes' side due to undisclosed reasons.”
The UFC policy explicitly states: “An athlete that becomes aware or has knowledge of any wagering in violation of these restrictions must immediately notify UFC of such incident in accordance with this UFC Athlete Conduct Policy."
Furthermore the UFC has the authority to "impose sanctions" following an investigation and that penalties can "take the form of contractual penalties, suspension of performance under the independent contractor agreement, and/or termination of the independent contractor relationship.”
Does this recent event make the UFC’s anti-gambling stance look lenient and weak? If this issue isn’t raised, and Hughes is never reprimanded, yes it does.