A Saturday night that saw heavily-backed underdog Conor McGregor lose to Khabib Nurmagomedov in UFC 229 was followed by an upset-filled NFL Sunday that some bookmakers called their best of the season.
MGM, which operates sportsbooks in Nevada, New Jersey and Mississippi, said the betting handle on McGregor and Nurmagomedov on Saturday in Las Vegas reached into seven figures, with the majority of it on the underdog. For every bet on Nurmagomedov at MGM, there were six on McGregor, and they weren't all small wagers, either.
"It was amazing how many five-figure bets we were getting on McGregor," MGM sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback said. "I would see a $30,000 [bet] come across, another $30,000, then $20,000; so not only was the public betting small amounts, there were some large public play on McGregor, too."
The price on the fight fluctuated throughout Saturday. Nurmagomedov got as low as -160 at some books, before closing as around a -200 favorite. Sportsbooks said there was plenty of respected, big money on Nurmagomedov, too, just not as much as was bet on McGregor. Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round, a profitable outcome for sportsbooks from Nevada to New Jersey.
Caesars Palace said the betting handle on Nurmagomedov-McGregor was approximately "one-third" of the amount that was wagered on last year's boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and McGregor, which generated an estimated $60 million in wagers statewide in Nevada.
DraftKings' New Jersey sportsbook said 70 percent of money wagered on the fight was on McGregor and compared the overall betting handle on the fight to how much is wagered on a non-prime-time NFL game.
Stoneback of the MGM said that the betting handle on Nurmagomedov-McGregor was in the top 10 of any fight, boxing or MMA, during his 20-plus-year career and that the result capped what had already been a good college football Saturday for the house.
"The fight put the cherry on top of the cake," Stoneback said.
Sunday was even better for the books.
NFL underdogs went 8-5 against spread Sunday, which is always a bad omen for the betting public that generally gravitates to the favorites. The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills pulled off outright upsets over heavily bet favorites, the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans respectively.
The knockout blow for the public was delivered by the Los Angeles Rams, who failed to cover the 7-point spread in a 33-31 win over the home underdog Seattle Seahawks. Station Casinos sportsbook said it took more individual bets on the Rams to cover the spread Sunday than they had taken on any team in any game this season.
Home underdogs went 4-0 against the spread Sunday and are now 16-6 against the number on the season.
"Best Sunday of the season for us," Ed Salmons of the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas said.
"It's been a good season," added Stoneback. "All but one week has been good for us."