UFC has been dealing with a very serious threat for their profit margins – a betting scandal. Many members of the MMA media are reluctant to investigate or ask the hard hitting questions when it comes to this ordeal. This is in part due to the fact MMA media practices access based journalism. This comes down to unfavorable coverage will get your press pass revoked and will make it harder for you to reach athletes to interview them.
Ariel Helwani knows a thing or two about the process because he’s been one of the most consistent voices in the MMA media space, not afraid to ask the hard hitting questions.
During a recent episode of MMA Hour, Helwani did a 45 minute run through of all relevant incidents that happened in the span of last several months.
How it started?
Helwani believes Krause started operating in April. Screenshots provided by MMA hour’s production staff confirm that “1% club” discord started at April 8th of 2022. (It had almost 5000 members at the time it was deleted. )
Discord is an online chat group used to communicate about a topic. It resembles slack, telegram and a number of other livechat apps available.
While the discord had grown to 4900 members, it’s unknown how many of them were paid subscribers and in which tier because there was reportedly a free tier as well.
Helwani outlined that back then UFC athletes were not banned from betting on UFC events.
“But now it’s just spreading everywhere. And it’s become just a massive, massive business. A gigantic business. It’s changed sports media. It continues to change sports. So everyone is getting involved. And back then, if you’re a UFC fighter, there were no real restrictions as to what you could do if you were a UFC coach, manager, whomever.”
James Krause started the 1% Club podcast on May 31st. His first guest was his biggest trainee – Brandon Moreno. Krause was on a different podcast prior to this one trying to develop a reputations as a picks master for ESPN called ‘Best bets’.
Krause’s infamous appearance on the MMA Hour
On August 1st, Krause appeared on the MMA Hour and bragged about his winnings. Helwani initially wanted to discuss Moreno’s interim title win with Krause but towards the end asked him about the betting posts he was making on his social media.
In August, Krause’s discord had 2000 members, as per his account during the interview.
Helwani deserves a lot of credit here for asking Krause if he was betting on his trainees. Krause responded affirmatively and seemed to realize what he said as he said it.
Krause also spoke in plural ‘We bet’ – Helwani asked about this and Krause was quick to attribute the we to the discord.
Krause went on to detail that he had several Tiers of services he was providing. 50$ a month was mentioned as was $2000 a month.
One of Helwani’s producers highlighted that some jurisdictions allow for betting on yourself – but not on your opponent.
In retrospect Helwani expressed the regret he hadn’t asked Krause at this time if he ever bet against his guys.
UFC bans athletes, coaches, staff from betting
On October 17th UFC released a memo prohibiting UFC athletes and associated staff from betting on UFC events.
Helwani confirms on the same day, Chris Wade and Chris Weidman were prevented from signing up for draft kings.
Darrick Minner line moves drastically
On November 5th, line for Minner vs Nuerdanbieke moved drastically.
It’s especially suspect having had line for Nuerdanbieke TKO move.
Minner’s suspicious behavior
Many analyzed Minner’s behavior in the actual event including Helwani:
Bound to happen sooner than later.
If Minner was injured coming into #UFCVegas64 V Shayilan Nuerdanbieke, then why throw 0 punches and 5 consecutive kicks (3 with the right, 2 with the left) to open the bout?
He even threw a kick WITH his injured leg RIGHT AFTER wobbling on it. pic.twitter.com/4cP3bYuyZ9
— Talen Guzman (@TalenGuzman) November 7, 2022
“Yeah, I rewatched it recently and throws a kick, winces, throws the same kick with the same leg. And then it’s interesting when you watch the fight, the Nuerdanbieke Minner fight, even the commentary is interesting. Now, not suggesting for a second, please, that they knew anything but when they’re talking about like, oh, it looks like he’s tapping in the midst of the of the ground and pound.”
— MMAdissect (@mmadissect) November 6, 2022
“It’s clear that he wanted out. Right. And so. All right. Is there a correlation there? Where did they know that Minner was hurt and then told everyone to bet on him losing in the first round? Did he just say like, let me throw caution to the wind here and I’m probably going to blow my knee out because I do believe on his Instagram afterwards, he’s posting pictures of him in a cast and all this stuff.”- Helwani explained
UFC’s betting integrity partner is investigating suspicious line movement
On November 6th, there were already talks of an investigation.
Sportsbooks got suspicious and called U.S. Integrity. It is a company located in Las Vegas that collaborates with state gaming regulators and sportsbooks to keep an eye on the betting industry. The company, which lacks enforcement power, has alerted the regulators to the unusual line movement.
Dana White denies there’s evidence of wrong doing on November 11th. White also said betting on the match was prevented – and that it was about singular big bets.
Helwani commented on White’s comments:
“Defiant, very dismissive. But yet, you know, there’s data to suggest that it wasn’t one singular bet and that there was something very, very suspicious. He you know, and you look at this, you know, a month later, less than a month later, and you’re like, how could you be so sure? And how could you be so dismissive? How could you be so defiant?”
Helwani also said there are no signs pointing to UFC involvement in anything shady around the incident.
NSAC suspends James Krause’s coaching license
On November 19th Miles Johns says UFC suspended Krause from cornering him at UFC Vegas 65. This is a misunderstanding on his behalf – Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Krause while he was under investigation as such he was not permitted to corner.
On the same day, New Jersey division of Gaming enforcement forbids sportsbooks on taking bets on fights that involve James Krause in any capacity.
1% Club Discord and Youtube channel deleted
On November 24th, discord was shut down as was the youtube channel for the 1% podcast.
Ontario and Alberta ban betting on UFC events
On December 1st, Ontario started requiring gaming operators to stop offering and accepting UFC bets.
On December 2nd, Alberta followed Ontario and forbid betting on UFC events.
On December 2nd, UFC released a statement addressing the incident and releasing Minner.
“Further, the UFC has released Derrick Minter from the organization Gigantic. Basically, he’s out, he’s banned, he’s been cut out. And so the UFC, I think, puts out the statement to say, look, the cancer is gone, we are cutting him out. The problem is, has the damage been done? Did he shine a light on an issue within the sport that now with investigations unfolding and I’m told on the radar of the FBI, do they start pulling on threads that lead to other things?” – Helwani wondered.
“This is the most serious threat to the future growth of the UFC in quite some time, if not ever. And dare I say obviously the health of its competitors paramount. But this is akin to when TRT was, you know, running through the company and they were trying to, you know, stop the bleeding there, so to speak. And you could say that in terms of, you know, integrity and legitimacy, if people don’t believe that what you are doing is on the up and up, there is a huge problem there, especially when it comes to fighting and combat sports…”
Helwani goes on to detail that this might be a systematic issue and details an anecdote from an ESPN article by Raimondi:
“And there’s an article written where he talks about where he spoke to a coach who was in the locker room before a fight and sees that another fighter who’s training warming up in the same locker room, he sees something about the fighter being off. He pulls out his phone. He places a bet against the fighter. Everything is so open.”
But it’s not all over for the UFC just yet, Helwani confirms other Canadian provinces are not stopping UFC betting:
“One last slide as of right now, b.c, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Quebec. All saying as of right now they are not going to stop MMA betting.”