NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After more than a month-long hiatus, sports return to action Saturday night.
Sports has always played a key role in a return to normal, but this time the sport bringing us back is the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
But it’s not coming back without a change. One of the fighters tested positive for COVID-19.
Roberto Souza has been pulled from the card after league officials confirmed the positive test.
Before the test results came back, the 40-year-old fighter wore a mask and gloves during his weigh-in and stare-down.
The rest of the fight card will go on as scheduled in a pay-per-view event from Jacksonville, Florida. According to one report, the UFC tested 300 people involved in or around the event.
This will mark the first major professional league in America to return to action, even in a limited form.
It’s a welcome relief for sports bettors in New Jersey.
Life without sports doesn’t mean the world of sports gambling has shut down.
March Madness went mum, the NBA and NHL are on pause, but sports gamblers are still active, and they’re turning to the more obscure sports, reports CBS2’s Steve Overmyer.
You can bet on volleyball from Indonesia, or soccer from Nicaragua, but the biggest show is Ukrainian table tennis.
“The Russian ping-pong phenomena is one that just floors me every time. I fall off my chair when I see the numbers every day that we write on Russian ping-pong, whether it be in Iowa, New Jersey, Nevada,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill US. “Talking to other bookmakers, they’re just stunned by the action it creates … It’s not only number one, it’s two, three, four and five. That’s how big it dwarfs the other ones.”
In New Jersey, online bookmakers handled about 54% of their expected income in March, even when the only games were unconventional.
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Scratching that betting itch forces fans and bookmakers to get creative.
Some sports books have expanded to predict who gets voted off of “Survivor” and one sportsbook even suggest you “Listen to Lonnie.”
Bovada sportsbook began creating betting lines for high temps across the country. (By the way, New York hit the over with 51 degrees on March 18.)
NASCAR will hold races without fans beginning next weekend.
Other major American sports will return to normal someday, and when they do, the gamblers will be waiting.