Combat Sports

How does the $21 billion TKO merger impact the UFC?

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have merged- with the UFC’s parent company Endeavour- purchasing WWE in a merger that has created a $21 billion conglomerate.  

The deal was first announced in April but was only presented to the sporting world on Tuesday- when TKO began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The prospect of combining two global powerhouses in the world of combat sports was a no-brainer but fans of both organisations are understandably curious as to what all this actually means. 

The most prominent question wanted addressed was whether or not fighters on the UFC and WWE rosters would fight each other. The short answer is no.  

Dana White, former president of the UFC is no longer the president of the UFC by title, but rather the CEO now. 

White has spoken in the past about his detest at ‘gimmick’ fights, so eyebrows naturally raised when the collaboration with the WWE- a sitcom that masquerades the UFC- was on the cards. Would WWE and UFC athletes fight one another after everything Dana said?

On the one hand, you have UFC fighters who are essentially modern-day gladiators given the brutality of their training, the grim weight cuts they endure and of course the fight. 

On the other hand- whilst WWE athletes do undertake arduous training- they are essentially actors who don’t sustain nearly as much physical trauma as UFC fighters.  

Having said that, Brock Lesnar and Ken Shamrock are standout athletes who have transitioned into UFC very well. In fact, a whole host of WWE fighters have made the switch- with varying results.  

There may be a smoother transfer of fighters now as a result of the merger, but at present there are no immediate plans to force it.

In terms of broadcasting, nothing has changed either. WWE will still be shown on Peacock, with ESPN airing the UFC.  

Both organisations will however become more visible on each other broadcasters, but fundamentally and in terms of hierarchy everything is the same.  

Paul Levesque- the Chief Content Officer of the WWE and who is more commonly known as ‘Triple H’- has asserted this by stating that the WWE’s model will not change.  

“I am here to assure you: We ain’t going nowhere. The same WWE that you love, the superstars, the action, the drama, all of it – we are going nowhere.” 

With all that addressed, does anything really change then? 

Vince McMahon, founder of TKO and the Executive Chairman of the WWE, has said that the merger has created a “$21 billion+ live sports and entertainment powerhouse.” 

Does this mean fighters will be paid more? Mike Davis and Matt Frevola have tweeted about the prospect, but no clear plans have been published yet. Fighters in the past have demanded an increase in salary due to meeting such gruelling demands, which brought widespread criticism towards Dana White. 

The most logical explanation for all the collaboration then is a loose notion that when WWE fans grow older, they sway towards UFC. Fans want the real thing once they realise just how scripted the WWE is.  

Reports do suggest that the WWE fanbase is getting older but regardless, the crossover of both promotions is something that Endeavour and everyone at an executive level will look to tap into in the future. As for everything else, it remains to be seen if there will be a more visible link-up but the future certainly looks bright for TKO nonetheless.

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