On Monday, it was announced that the Ultimate Fighting Championship– the world’s leading mixed martial arts fight promotion– would be merging with World Wrestling Entertainment– a pillar in competitive yet fictional wrestling. The UFC’s parent company Endeavor now takes on the WWE as one of its benefactors, resulting in a company worth over $21 billion.
The UFC, being the largest fight promotion in the world, has absolutely dominated the combat sports landscape. The real violence of its sport is in stark contrast to the WWE’s scripted, dramatic presentation. Despite the entertainment being referred to as “wrestling,” the reality is far from real wrestling. Instead, it’s an exhibition of stunts and acrobatics that is planned and executed as a performance.
Wrestling vs. “Wrestling”
The merging of the two companies is interesting considering the vastly different nature of their sports. For one, the UFC is real, with real fights featuring real punches, kicks, wrestling and submission grappling. The WWE is all show, which appeals to a slightly different demographic of people, though there may be some overlap in the two organizations’ fanbases.
But for UFC diehards, this move seems strange. There’s no doubt the merging of their beloved fight league with scripted, performative wrestling won’t sit right, especially considering mixed martial arts includes real wrestling as one of its major elements. The UFC is full of some of the best wrestlers in the world, including Kamaru Usman, Henry Cejudo and newcomer Bo Nickal.
The accolades those fighters have accumulated, including NCAA national championship and Olympic gold medals, are seen to be worth far more than any WWE championship– as they should be.
There’s also questions surrounding how this will all play out on the agents’ side of things. It will be interesting to see if agents representing UFC athletes start exploring the wrestling entertainment side of the company, too.
Despite all the strangeness behind this deal, UFC president Dana White, WWE majority owner and executive chairman Vince McMahon and Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel should be applauded for getting the deal done. They clearly have a vision of what a merging of mixed martial arts and wrestling entertainment could be, and they’re taking action.
If I had to speculate, I would guess that the UFC’s product won’t really be affected by this, at least not for the time being. In the future, we may see WWE athletes transition over to the UFC to become real fighters rather than performers. But for now, I think UFC fighters becoming involved in WWE events is a more feasible possibility.
After all, we’ve seen it happen before. Brock Lesnar went from fighting in the UFC to becoming a notable WWE athlete. Similarly, former UFC champion Ronda Rousey, who fought in the first UFC women’s fight, left the MMA organization and eventually became a WWE champion. There is definitely a market for seeing these athletes transition over to wrestling. Time will only tell how it pans out.