Looking Back at the Sportsbook Fiasco

This isn’t even close to the complete story, just bits and pieces that I was able to find here and there that may or may not be completely accurate, but what appears to be the best information out there.

I think everyone by now has heard how wearing a Sportsbook.com shirt at the UFC 54 weigh-ins ended up in the UFC releasing Matt Lindland from his contract at a time where he was widely known as the number one contender for Rich Franklin’s then-UFC middleweight title.

At the time those type of sponsor-fighter relationships were said to be prohibited by the UFC. Or was it just Sportsbook that was prohibited? Maybe just online gambling sites?

After all Dana White has called Calvin Ayre a criminal in the past for his dealings in online gambling. Sportsbook’s CEO Peter Dicks was arrested in 2006 on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and fraud, the same reasons why Ayre can not step foot inside the United States according to some.

Did Dana know something that made him think twice before allowing his fighters to be sponsored by online gambling sites? Did an event occur that made White change his mind about them? If something did, it may have been the Sportsbook/Team Quest scandal that occurred in the early months of 2005.

FightSport first came out with this story in February of 2005. I have confirmed though in the past that this account is fairly accurate as to what actually took place.

As we all know, Evan Tanner, Dan Henderson, Matt Lindland, and Randy Couture were all members of Team Quest at one time. An official date as to when all of the fighters became sponsored by Sportsbook is unknown but 2004 seems to be a pretty good estimate.

Apparently after Lindland was knocked out by David Terrell at UFC 49, he and Couture made a deal with Sportsbook that would have Team Quest take up the rest of the remaining sponsorship slots that were left. The deal was rumored to be worth somewhere in the area of six figures. Now I’m not sure where Henderson fits into all of this but the deal was made without involving Tanner.

The new deal left Couture and Lindland in charge of all of the money that would be received from Sportsbook. The money was split between Couture, Lindland, and the new SportFight promotion that they formed and based out of the Portland, Oregon area. Tanner and Henderson both had separate deals with Sportsbook so they did not receive a cut of the money.

After learning about all of this, Tanner was also informed that Couture and Lindland were demanding a percentage of the money he would receive from Sportsbook, which led to him severing ties with the online gambling firm and Team Quest as well. It’s no secret that Lindland has said that he would love to fight Tanner in the past and one can only assume that this ordeal has at least something to do with it.

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