When two competitors enter the Octagon on fight night, the mentality of these fighters is not to pay attention to the odds. A fight is a fight, and any distraction from the violent challenge facing them from the other side of the cage is too dangerous a trait to remain long among elite competitors.
Yet it's impossible to believe that any human, not matter how well-conditioned or accustom to fighting, would not be aware when the whole world thinks they will lose. And those fighters who have continuously overachieved the expectations set upon them by the betting market have earned special recognition as cold-blooded winners who truly don't care what is supposed to happen on fight night in favor of what they determine to be their own fate. They rise to the occasion and topple kings and queens without regard. And the bettors that either saw these upsets in the making, or at least properly valued some regression to the mean against unjustified favorites, were likely rewarded handsomely.
One fighter best exemplifies the value of over-performance, or market underestimation. If the question is "Which fighter has been the best betting investment in UFC history," then the answer is
Taking only fighters with long careers in the UFC, we unsurprisingly see a list of well-known fighters, and plenty of champions and title contenders. Just to have 15 career fights in the UFC demands a fair bit of success early on, and these fighters all have performed admirably over time. But what differentiates these fighters is that they have significantly outperformed market expectations, either through unwavering success through long winning streaks, or also through being undervalued at the sports books and beating the odds. Frankie Edgar managed to be both of these: he's a winner who also was often underestimated.
The ROI return equalizes bets to account for favorites and winners, assuming an equal betting amount for each fighter's performances. Big underdogs can return big profits for an upset, while steep favorites who always win offer stable and conservative bond-like returns. But in reality, big players in the betting markets will often make maximum bets when they choose to take a side, meaning they risk far more on favorites than when they take the underdog. Assuming this methodology gives a slightly different list of fighters return the most dollars profit.
Interestingly, recently anointed champion Michael Bisping jumps to second on this list, thanks to two consecutive massive upsets against Anderson Silva and Luke Rockhold, on his way to the top of the middleweight ladder. Also notable on this list is Jon Jones, whose lone career loss via disqualification is the only thing preventing a perfect MMA record and a higher spot on both lists. We previously took a look at Jones's career betting performance compared to Daniel Cormier and the implications of their UFC 200 rematch on their returns.
Several fighters on the list will be competing during the UFC's three International Fight Week cards this week, including Frankie Edgar, Jones, Rafael dos Anjos, Joe Lauzon. While Jones and dos Anjos are heavy favorites to win their fights that week, Edgar and Lauzon both have nearly pick 'em betting lines, meaning they could improve further up these lists with a win than the others. Edgar has only been unable to defeat two opponents in his career. One is Benson Henderson, now two divisions higher and competing in another promotion. But the other is Jose Aldo, and they will clash in a rematch at UFC 200. Current lines are giving Edgar the smallest edge at -115 in what is sure to be a closely contested bout.
Visit Fightnomics for more MMA stats and analysis.