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What does WWE and UFC's €19.6 billion merger deal mean for the future of combat sport?

What does this merger mean for fans of WWE and UFC?
What does this merger mean for fans of WWE and UFC? Copyright Credit: AP Photo/Canva Images
Copyright Credit: AP Photo/Canva Images
By Theo FarrantAP
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World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have merged to create a $21.4 billion sports entertainment company. But what does this mean for the future of combat sports?

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Get ready to rumble because a new era of sports entertainment has just begun! 

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have merged to create a €19.6 billion ($21.4 billion) sports entertainment company. 

This blockbuster deal will create a publicly traded company with a 51% controlling interest held by Endeavor Group Holdings Inc. and existing WWE shareholders holding a 49% stake.

Before we dive into what this merger means for the future of sports entertainment, let's take a look back at the histories of both WWE and UFC.

The two heavyweights of combat sports

AP/WWE
Roman Reigns, center, holds up his WWE heavyweight and universal championship belts after defeating Cody Rhodes in the main event of WrestleMania 39, Sunday, April 2, 2023AP/WWE

WWE, formerly known as World Wrestling Federation (WWF), was founded by Vince McMahon in 1980 after he purchased Capitol Wrestling from his father. 

He took the regional wrestling business to a national audience and created some of the biggest stars in wrestling history, including Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. 

One of the company's most iconic events, WrestleMania, debuted in 1985 and has become a cultural phenomenon ever since. 

The latest WrestleMania event, held over the weekend, broke global viewership records by a staggering 28% on the first night and 33% on the second night. 

WWE is also a social media powerhouse with over 16 billion social video views in the final quarter of last year and nearly 94 million YouTube subscribers, as well as 20 million followers on TikTok. 

Julio Cortez/AP
Conor McGregor stands on a scale during the weigh-in event for his fight against Eddie Alvarez in UFC 205. Nov. 11, 2016Julio Cortez/AP

In contrast, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was founded in 1993 and is known for its mixed martial arts (MMA) fights. 

The sport was initially seen as controversial and violent, but it wasn't until Conor McGregor's emergence that the UFC truly broke through to the mainstream. 

McGregor, a brash Irish fighter with a unique fighting style, quickly became one of the most popular athletes in the world after winning his first UFC championship in 2015.

He soon began calling out some of the biggest names in the sport, capturing the attention of fans worldwide. 

Since McGregor's rise to stardom, the UFC has continued to produce other exciting fighters, such as Ronda Rousey, Anderson Silva, Georges "Rush" St. Pierre and Paddy Pimblett, who have also captivated audiences and helped grow the popularity of the sport.

It's important to note that the UFC is a legitimate sports organisation that presents real fights between highly skilled mixed martial artists, while WWE is a form of entertainment that presents scripted matches between performers playing character roles. 

Additionally, UFC fighters compete in a wide variety of fighting styles such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, while WWE performers are primarily trained in wrestling techniques and performance skills.

The future of combat sports

John Locher/AP
Amanda Nunes, right, connects with Ronda Rousey in the first round of their women's bantamweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 207John Locher/AP

Now, back to the merger. 

While this deal may come as a surprise to some, there have already been ties between WWE and UFC talent. Stars such as Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey have crossed over between the two organisations, giving fans a taste of what a potential merger could look like.

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In an interview with CNBC, Vince McMahon addressed doubts among some WWE fans and industry experts that he would ever make a deal for the business. “It’s the right time to do the right thing. And it’s the next evolution of WWE,” he said.

So, what will this merger bring to the world of sports entertainment? 

According to a presentation by WWE and Endeavor, the new company will cross-promote to drive brand awareness and deepen penetration of their overlapping fan base, which consists of over 700 million UFC fans and 1.2 billion WWE fans worldwide. 

They also plan to maximize the value of combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetization, develop new forms of content, and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster their brands.

The new business, which does not yet have a name, will be led by Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel.

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McMahon, executive chairman at WWE, will serve in the same role at the new company. Dana White will continue as president of UFC and Nick Khan will be president at WWE.

This company has been on fire for the last seven years and now that we will be adding WWE to the portfolio, I am excited to take this to another level. Vince is a savage in the wrestling space, Ari is a beast at what he does, and then add what we at UFC bring to the table and there is no limit to what this company can accomplish in the next five years.
Dana White
President of UFC

Will we see Conor McGregor fight in WWE?

Conor McGregor has already set tongues wagging with his recent social media activity regarding the WWE and UFC merger.

The Irishman recently posted an edited image of himself holding both the UFC and WWE Championships, sparking rumours that he might be considering a move to professional wrestling in the future. 

But one man not impressed with McGregor's plans was veteran WWE manager Paul Heyman, who labelled McGregor a "wannabe" of the 'Tribal Chief,' Roman Reigns. 

In his trademark style, McGregor responded to veteran promoter Paul Heyman's comment by threatening to break his jaw in three places. 

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Who knows what the future holds for McGregor, but one thing's for sure - the WWE better watch out for this Irish firecracker.

As fans and industry experts continue to speculate on what the merger could mean for the future of both organizations, many professional fighters have taken to social media to share their thoughts on the deal. 

Among the reactions, American UFC fighter Bo Nickal expressed his interest in fighting other WWE fighters, while Jake Paul is optimistic about the potential benefits for improved fighter pay.

Check out the video above for more.

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