On Feb. 8, Wyoming became the first state to approve wagering on Power Slap, Dana White’s controversial UFC offshoot in which two combatants take turns open-hand slapping one another with all their might.
Humans have been slapping each other since they dwelled in caves, but the act of violence reached a cultural crescendo when Will Smith put his right palm to Chris Rock’s left cheek at the 2022 Oscars. Standing nearly 6’2” and having portrayed Muhammad Ali onscreen, Smith is no anatomical slouch — but his sneak attack on Rock did little to no damage in the physical sense.
The “strikers” in Power Slap, however, impact opponents’ faces with such a vengeance that they frequently fall to the ground, rendered dazed and confused. A TV show devoted to the fledgling slapping league has thus far drawn a meager audience on TBS, but it has nevertheless caught criticism from all corners — including rebukes from professional fighters in other disciplines, concussion experts, and even celebrity chefs.
Real Hunger games is next?🥴😔
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) January 20, 2023
In assessing Power Slap, neuroscientist Chris Nowinski simply said, “This is everything bad about a hit.”
‘There’s a market for everyone’
Having endured the late Sen. John McCain referring to mixed martial arts as “human cockfighting,” UFC kingpin White, whose organization also operates Power Slap, has weathered (and then some) low approval ratings before.
“This is the same exact s**t that I heard about UFC: ‘Oh these guys aren’t athletes and, you know, they’re rolling around on the ground and they can do this and that and there aren’t no rules and it’s not like boxing.’ I heard all this s**t 20 years ago,” White recently told Pat McAfee.
None of the hullabaloo surrounding Power Slap is of particular concern to David Carpenter, who is tasked with approving sports wagering events for the state of Wyoming. Unlike in Colorado, where a sports betting operator must request that an event be added to the state’s menu, Carpenter is free to act unilaterally.
“That’s part of the fun of my job: I get to scour the internet looking for obscure sports,” he half-joked to Sports Handle. “There aren’t statutory limits on whether I need to take requests or do it on my own. Although there were some crazy fishing scandals for a little bit, I try to find some markets that Wyoming residents will be interested in. I have rodeo and bull riding. There’s a market for everyone, and I’m trying to find them all.”
And in identifying those markets, Carpenter has taken a stridently agnostic approach.
“For me, it comes down to integrity. I don’t know that it’s my duty to inject some sort of political perspective into it,” he said. “LIV Golf, there are states that have had their issues with that. The Russia deal, banning random players and leagues — I’ve stayed hands-off on it. I don’t think that a Russian tennis player is the one running around with a missile. It just seems like a slippery slope to me.”
Once Carpenter learned that U.S. Integrity (USI) had given its stamp of approval to Power Slap, that was good enough for him — and Wyoming.
“UFC as a whole needed USI to jump in behind them because of that whole Canada issue,” he said, referring to a recent controversy involving an injured fighter and a trainer who moonlit with an offshore bookmaker. “Their integrity policy, you couldn’t find it on the internet. They had nothing. UFC, it’s basically like the NFL to most of us. I keep integrity folders on everyone, and UFC’s was empty.”
More states to follow?
It would hardly be surprising if Power Slap was approved for wagering in more jurisdictions in advance of its first live pay-per-view event on March 11 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. After all, it’s currently legal to bet on Power Slap’s main rival, SlapFIGHT Championship (SFC), in Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Oregon, and Wyoming, as well as Ontario.
“There’s no reason why anybody who approved [SFC] wouldn’t approve this,” said Matt Holt, USI’s president and founder. “Now that the Super Bowl is over, I imagine we’ll probably see some operators who want Power Slap.”