UFC Champions: Bet on Conor McGregor, Michael Chandler, Israel Adesanya as 2024 Titleholders

UFC Champions: Bet on Conor McGregor, Michael Chandler, Israel Adesanya as 2024 Titleholders article feature image
Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC lightweight Michael Chandler

Let's look at who could be 2024 UFC champions when the year is over with my picks and predictions for this unique MMA betting market.

We're just a third of the way through the calendar year, which leaves enough time for UFC titles to change hands. Just three of the 11 official UFC titles (with apologies to the BMF belt) are held by the same fighter who had it to start 2023, so plenty of turnover is likely throughout the year.

Fortunately, we can bet on who holds those UFC titles via BetMGM's UFC 2024-2025 Champions Predictor. Given the one-way nature of this market (you can't bet that an individual fighter won't be champion) and lack of options to line shop, these don't tend to be the best bets from an expected value perspective.

(Who do you think will be a UFC champion at year's end? Make your picks with our BetMGM promo code!)

So, be sure to keep your bets small here, and consider these picks more for fun.

Betting into these markets requires not only handicapping a fighter's ability, but also guessing the UFC's matchmaking. The good news is the UFC still has eight pay-per-view events to go in 2024, and they typically try to have at least one title fight on each – with the possible exception of the return of Conor McGregor at UFC 303.

Let's look at some of the more notable divisions post-UFC 300, starting with the light heavyweight belt retained by champion Alex Pereira.


UFC Champions – 2024 Picks & Predictions

*Odds as of May 6 and via BetMGM

UFC Light Heavyweight Champion

Safe Pick: Alex Pereira (-165) – Current Champion

"Poatan" is just eight fights into his UFC career, and Alex Pereira has already claimed two titles and two defenses of his 205-pound belt. The latter might be more impressive than the former given the turbulent nature of the title ever since Jon Jones left the light-heavyweight division.

Pereira has made his intentions to stay active abundantly clear, which adds an element of risk to this pick – as does his desire to go up to heavyweight and win an unprecedented third UFC title.

However, with the UFC heavyweight division seemingly on hold as Jones waits for his fight with Stipe Miocic, a heavyweight move for Pereira is unlikely to happen in 2024. BetMGM doesn't even offer a market on the heavyweight title due to the division's current uncertainty. Additionally, Pereira could go up and still be the nominal 205-pound champion for a period of time.

The most credible threat to Pereira's title is probably Magomed Ankalaev. Pereira has beat the other three members of the division's Top 5 in the past nine months, and they're unlikely to get a rematch anytime soon. Still, I'd make Pereira better than -165 against Ankalaev at the moment, making this a solid bet.

Dark Horse: Israel Adesanya (+2500)

Depending on whom you ask, Israel Adesanya and Pereira still have some unfinished business. Adesanya is the only man to beat Pereira in the UFC, though that, of course, followed a knockout loss in the UFC and two kickboxing defeats.

Adesanya is currently rumored to be fighting Dricus Du Plessis in August for the middleweight crown. That fight isn't official yet, and the UFC is known to change plans – particularly for a fight that could do as much business as Pereira vs. Adesanya III.

Besides, an early August pairing with "DDP" hypothetically leaves enough time for a move up to 205 at the December pay-per-view event. Adesanya is listed as a slight favorite in a hypothetical trilogy with Pereira, and he might be the one fighter with the technical striking to have a chance.


UFC Lightweight Champion

Safe Pick: Islam Makhachev (-350) – Current Champion

Islam Makhachev might be the closest thing the UFC has to a dominant champion right now, at least among the men's divisions. While he's defended the title only twice – and both against featherweight Alexander Volkanovski – he's made short work out of almost all of his competition.

Following UFC 300, the promotion announced Makhachev would defend his title this summer against Dustin Poirier. Makhachev is around a -450 favorite in that bout. Given Makhachev's historical inactivity, there's a good chance that's the only time we see him in the UFC octagon in 2024, creating slight value on this line.

I won't be betting this myself, as the best-case scenario is an eight-month investment at 28% interest. But it's probably +EV.

Dark Horses: Conor McGregor (+4000), Michael Chandler (+4000)

News came out that the UFC offered the title shot to Arman Tsarukyan (+175 to end 2024 as champion) following his UFC 300 win, but Tsarukyan wanted more time to prepare than the seven weeks between UFC 300 and 302.

We know how the UFC feels about fighters turning down title shots, and sometimes they never get another one. Wouldn't it be just like the UFC to let the Michael Chandler vs. Conor McGregor winner skip the line?

Sure, there's reason to doubt McGregor's ability to make 155 pounds again, or either man's ability to actually beat Makhachev. Crazier things have happened, though, and there's also a chance Makhachev jumps up to welterweight at some point this year.

It's a fun sprinkle given the 40-1 odds.

Kayla Harrison
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC bantamweight Kayla Harrison at UFC 300

UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion

Safe Pick: Kayla Harrison (-140)

Kayla Harrison made quite the impression in her UFC debut earlier this month, dispatching former champion Holly Holm in two rounds while absorbing just two significant strikes. Now she finds herself as the favorite to wear the belt this year, despite being just one fight in to her UFC tenure.

While no title shot has been announced for Harrison, the UFC certainly didn't sign her to wait around during a Raquel Pennington vs. Julianna Pena fight.

Harrison would/will be much larger than a -140 favorite if she's matched with Pennington, which creates some value here.

Dark Horse: Raquel Pennington (+400) – Current Champion

The "if" in the sentence about Harrison's matchmaking is doing a lot of work. While Pennington has felt like a transitional champion from the moment she won the vacant 135-pound title, it's still weird to get 4-1 odds on the current titleholder.

Especially considering Pennington is dealing with an unspecified injury that could keep her out of action.

That could lead to the UFC brass – not known for their patience – to create an interim title fight between Pena and Harrison while leaving Pennington as the nominal titleholder. If that interim fight doesn't happen until late summer, the titles would likely not be unified until next year.

Or Pennington could straight-up beat Harrison – but the former scenario feels way more likely.

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