Last week, ESPN debuted a new betting show that will precede all PPV events, Best Bets. (Each week, the name will include the corresponding UFC event, e.g., Best Bets: UFC Fight Night or Best Bets: UFC 267.)
MMA Insider Brett Okamoto and MMA and betting expert Ian Parker, who officially joins ESPN, are the hosts. (Parker has appeared on Professional Fighters League, or PFL, telecasts this year.) The show streams on ESPN’s MMA YouTube channel and will provide the latest information fans need to know ahead of every PPV event. It will be offered live for all PPV events starting next week.
This launch completes a plan to enhance the information and entertainment ESPN provides to MMA fans with three new offerings.
The first two of the trio were launched in July: The Chael Sonnen Show w/Jorge Sedano has former UFC title contender Chael Sonnen telling the most interesting stories in the world of MMA – past, present and future – alongside Jorge Sedano. DC & RC features former UFC two-division champion Daniel Cormier and former Super Bowl champion Ryan Clark, who share a love of MMA. Both shows are seen on ESPN+ and ESPN’s social channels.
“The UFC fan base continues to grow, and we need to keep raising our game to best serve them,” said Glenn Jacobs, ESPN Vice President, Production. “These three new shows give fans a lot of unique content to enjoy across a variety of ESPN’s platforms. Our MMA team is excited to add a betting show to the mix, with the addition of Ian Parker, which will give fans the latest information they need to get ready for Fight Nights and PPVs on ESPN+.”
Parker dove right into his new responsibilities on his first assignment last week in Las Vegas. In addition to the new show, he appeared on ESPN2’s UFC Live, Daily Wager and the UFC 266 Pre-Show on ESPN+. Going forward, he will also write for ESPN.com.
“I grew up watching wrestling with my father, but then saw The Ultimate Fighter and I was hooked on MMA,” the Long Island, N.Y., native says. “I even started training and had a few amateur fights. That gave me a deeper appreciation of the sport and the athletes, especially the training. Fighting is the easy part; training is the hard part.
“I never call any fighter a loser or a bum,” he continued. “I have too much respect for the blood, sweat, and tears behind their journey to get in there.”
Even while working a “real” job” with the NHL’s Florida Panthers (in business sales), Parker launched his own company to manage and sponsor fighters. Over time, the betting aspect of the sport became his focus, and he began to make appearances on numerous podcasts. That led to a regular role on one and the position on TV for the PFL.
What is his goal for Best Bets?
“When Brett and I break down each matchup, the goal is to educate the audience and provide information that is easily understood,” he explains. “We don’t just say who will win, but how. Also, we explain how to find value based on the odds of the various prop bets that are based on how the fight will be decided and when.”
For Parker, this new role is the culmination of everything he’s worked on for more than 12 years.
“It’s been years of hard work,” he says.”Sometimes, you have to keep grinding until you get your shot. This is the opportunity I’ve been working for.”