The Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, is known for its high kicks and punches that take place in a walled octagon, so fighters can’t tumble out. World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE, is known for its body slams and costumed matches that take place in a square.
UFC fights are real, while WWE bouts are scripted. Now WWE and Endeavor Group Holdings, UFC’s parent company, are merging the two brands to form a new, yet-to-be named public company worth more than $21 billion.
“I’m just fascinated with the athleticism that I see,” said John Kneup, a UFC fan for 15 years. “On any given day, everyone’s beatable.”
He’s a former high school wrestling coach in southern Arizona, and two of his students became UFC fighters. Kneup doesn’t have much time for WWE.
And in the Venn diagram of people who like UFC and people who like WWE, there is not that much overlap.
“WWE and UFC have said that there is very minimal current overlap between them, which is extremely surprising to me,” said Brandon Ross, a partner and media and technology analyst at LightShed Partners.
But some athletes have been in both. Take Ronda Rousey. She had been a UFC champion, and now she’s a WWE star. She and many other athletes have big social media followings. This merger is an opportunity to bring the fans of one to the other, Ross said. For example, during a WWE match, organizers could “bring a UFC fighter on, have them do a little bit of a skit, just to drum up interest,” Ross said.
But there could be brand confusion, UFC fan, John Kneup worries.
“People might think that WWE must be the real thing, when it’s not,” he said.
Some staples of WWE will remain. Vince McMahon’s family has run the company since its inception. He’s the majority shareholder but stepped down as CEO last summer amid an investigation for alleged misconduct.
He returned this year as executive chairman, and will remain in that role with the new company.
Update (April 3, 2023): This story has been updated to add context about the UFC and WWE audience overlap.
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