Is Slap Fighting The Next Big Thing? Wyoming’s Betting On It

Wyoming, historically open to niche contact sports, has become the first state in the nation to sanction betting on Dana Whites Power Slap League. Although there are many critics who don't believe it's a sport.

Jake Nichols

February 21, 20239 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The list of things one might consider when toying with the idea of getting on board with the whole slap fighting scene include:

• Why would anyone sign up to get slapped in the face? 

• Why would anyone want to watch someone other than, say, Vladimir Putin, get the snot smacked out of them? 

• Why would anyone be interested in wagering on a contest involving the aforementioned?

Don’t look now, but Wyoming is betting on it.

Slap fighting, as it’s known, is now a regulated sport recognized by the Nevada Athletic Commission. And Wyoming, quick to react, has become the first state to allow online wagering for contests offered by UFC offshoot Power Slap – the industry leader in slap fight offerings.

The sport, by the way, is relatively straightforward. It pits two combatants who take turns slapping each other, usually until one is knocked silly enough to be declared the loser. 

Fight Site: Wyoming

For the Equality State, slap fighting isn’t exactly uncharted waters. 

Wyoming has been ahead of the curve when it comes to niche combat sports, thanks in great part to the efforts of Bryan Pedersen.

Pedersen is no stranger to blood sports. He’s a former state legislator and MMA fighter. The 48-year-old now heads up the Wyoming Combat Sports Commission. 

The three-person entity was established by legislation in 2020 out the ashes of the State Board of Mixed Martial Arts, which was the first of its kind for any state in 2012. 

Behind the efforts of Pedersen, bare-knuckle boxing came to Wyoming in 2018, the first such state-sanctioned event on U.S. soil in almost 130 years. The event attracted a sellout crowd of some 2,000 fans to the Cheyenne Ice and Events Center and was a broadcast pay-per-view event on FITE TV. 

A reported 28 other states said “no thanks” when fight promoter David Feldman went looking for a place to host his inaugural championship event. Wyoming led the way and now a handful of other states have sanctioned their own bareknuckle fighting.

Hockey Fights, Without The Hockey

Not one to rest on his laurels, Pedersen’s latest venture is bringing Ice Wars 3 to Wyoming for its United States debut. 

Ice Wars International is prize fighting on ice, hockey without all the pesky goals and penalties. 

For those who go to hockey games hoping to see a fight break out, Ice Wars 3 is nothing but that; hockey distilled to nothing but gloves-off fisticuffs. 

The first two installments of the fledgling sport took place in Enoch, Alberta, Canada, at the River Cree Casino. The third installment, and first-ever in the U.S., is scheduled for March 4 at the Cheyenne Ice and Events Center.

Of his efforts to bring these underground sporting events to Wyoming, Pedersen told KRAE’s ProShow in June 2022 that he is trying to help expand state industry while also giving a leg up to growing sectors of sport industries. 

“I tell this to all our industries: Wyoming is here. We are open for business. We’ll help you grow and in turn you will help us grow,” Pedersen said.

Slapstick Comedy?

At its worst, slap fighting has been called “violence porn.” 

Critics are numerous, including many involved in violent combat sports themselves. Yet, slap fighting has come a long way in a short time, from carny sideshow amusement to a legitimized sport. 


Thanks to recent regulation, slap fighting now has rigid rules and codes of conduct. Once little more than a barroom brawl-style event, the sport is now carefully standardized. 

Two competitors — referred to as “strikers” — stand on either side of a podium. Fights are comprised of three rounds max, each contestant getting one slap per round. The slapper has 30 seconds to deliver a blow, and the slapee gets 30 seconds to recover.

Strict rules govern the striker. Feet must remain planted. Legal slaps are described as open-handed strikes landing on the cheek, defined as above the chin but below the eye. The striker’s entire hand must make contact at the same time (no heel-first strikes known as “clubbing”). 

The receiver also is bound by strict rules: 

• Feet parallel and within a designated zone.

• Shoulders square, chin up and hands behind the back gripping a “slap stick.”

• Finally, defenders are not allowed to flinch in any way prior to impact.

Penalties can include warnings, point deductions and full disqualifications. If both fighters remain standing after three rounds, a winner is determined by a judge on a point-based system.

Slap Fighting Goes Primetime

Dana White is no stranger to controversy. 

The current UFC president faced the same backlash his Power Slap league is getting now when he helped launch the mixed martial arts fight scene into mainstream. 

Those in the MMA scene and affiliated with the UFC have been among White’s harshest critics. 

“It is a terrible look to have the UFC associated with this slap fighting. It is completely sadistic and people are going to likely end up with brain damage. This is just violence porn,” commented MMA fighter David Avellan on Twitter. 

Current MMA coach Eric Nicksick agrees.

Last month he tweeted: “A few things that make combat sports so great are the art of defense and countering. Not standing with your hands at your side and taking blunt force trauma to the dome, while an Olympic power lifter tries to knock cerebral brain fluid out of [your] ears and nose.”

Speaking on the “Pat McAfee Show” last September, White fired back at his critics. 

“This is the same exact shit 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 shit 20 years ago,” he said.

Maybe White is just ahead of the curve.

Once considered a brash upstart promoting a rogue sport, the UFC has become legitimized in many aspects with a growing following. 

White took his Power Slap straight to the Nevada State Athletic Commission just as he did UFC to get it properly sanctioned and licensed. 

And as state officials in Nevada were signing off on slap fighting as a legitimate sport, White struck a deal with TBS to televise his matches under the moniker “Power Slap: Road to the Title.” Audiences have been slow to respond with viewership waning at just under 300,000. 

After the first few episodes featured one contestant knocked unconscious and another sent to the ground twitching, TBS and Power Slap received plenty of backlash from the viewing public. 

White insists his sport has taken all the necessary precautions at great expense to make it as safe as possible. He often compares slap fighting to boxing where athletes receive 300-400 blows during an average fight. In slap fighting, they might get whacked three to five times per event.

 “Nobody’s asking you to watch this,” White said during a self-produced interview. “Oh, you’re disgusted by it? Watch ‘The Voice.’”

For Bettor Or Worse

Officially, Wyoming is not weighing in on whether it’s right or wrong to slap someone silly for sport. 

State officials are simply saying it’s OK to bet on it. And that’s saying something considering the sport is still in its infancy and bookies still aren’t sure how to even handicap or take action on it. 

European slap fighting league SlapFIGHT has been around longer than Power Slap. Wagering on those events has been available via DraftKings since late last year. Bettors in Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado and Connecticut have been wagering on that action using DraftKings, FanDuel and the like. 

On Feb. 8, Wyoming became the first state to approve wagering on Power Slap League events. That same day an agreement between Power Slap and U.S. Integrity was announced, making the nation’s leading technology-driven sports wagering monitoring company the overseer of betting in 2023. 

Still, it remains to be seen just what bettors can put their money down on. 

Betting industry giant FanDuel is one of the online wagering sites toying with the idea of taking bets on slap fighting.

Wyoming Not Slap-Happy

While Wyoming is bullish on slap fight wagering, as well as high on combat sports in general, don’t expect to see the Cowboy State hosting a sanctioned slap-fest anytime soon. 

Think about it. The derivation of “slap-happy” is defined as someone who is “punch drunk” or “stupefied from repeated blows to the head.” It doesn’t sound like something you’d even enter your mother-in-law in. 

And Pedersen — as high as he is on MMA, Lethwei Burmese boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, bare-knucks, ice fighting and just about any way two people can wail on each other — isn’t going there either. 

 “We won’t regulate this sport in Wyoming. You won’t see it come here,” Pedersen told Cowboy State Daily. “A couple years ago, we were all real excited about it. But after watching it more, I’ve really changed my position.”

Pedersen added he just doesn’t see a “sporting” aspect to the event. Unlike MMA or boxing, athletes in slap contests have no chance to defend themselves; to dodge, duck, dip, dive or dodge the blows.

“The only defense in the [slap fighting] is, ‘I can take getting slapped longer than you,’” he said. “I don’t know how this doesn’t end in long-term CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) or death for fighters.”

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Jake Nichols

Features Reporter