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Buying the Competition: What Dana and the UFC can learn from Vince and the WWE

By Cage Potato contributor Jason Moles
(“Read my lips: ‘TNA WRESTLING F*CKING SUCKS!’”)

Recently the MMA community witnessed another watershed moment as Dana White announced that Zuffa, parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, had once again purchased the competition. This time the victim was San Jose based Strikeforce. Whether or not we look back upon favorably in the future depends on how the suits handle the situation. If history is any indicator, and it is, and I can compare a legitimate sport in MMA to a male soap opera in professional wrestling, and I can, then there is nothing to fear. Yo Dana, I know you’re reading so sit down and take some notes, class is about to begin.

Both the UFC and WWE generate the majority of their revenue from PPV while they supplement a portion of it with advertising and merchandise such as videogames, clothing and DVDs. They share a target demographic of the 18-34 year old male. Although one is more entertainment than the other is, it plays a huge role in each finished product as evidenced as Diego Sanchez’s “Energy bonus.” Contrary to what a few jaded fans claim, the two have more in common than you might imagine.

An announcement of such magnitude like the one we received last weekend excites, saddens, and angers many people, both fans and fighters. We’ve been told ad nauseum that the two mixed martial arts promotions will remain separate entities and it will be “business as usual.” Wait, what?! As a guy who has a rooting interest in the success of the sport I can’t help but think of the possibilities and how wonderful this is – as long as the UFC brass learns from the mistakes of Vinnie Mac.

Almost ten years ago to the day, World Wrestling Entertainment owner and CEO Vince McMahon bought World Championship Wrestling along with the assets of Extreme Championship Wrestling, which folded after filing bankruptcy in April 2001. In a move so unprecedented, the wrestlers themselves collectively had to pick their jaw up from off the floor when Vince’s son, Shane McMahon, appeared on WCW Monday Nitro. Talk about being blindsided! The fans didn’t know if they were supposed to cheer or boo so they held their breath as they watched history being made. Don’t play stupid; you remember how it went down. Just thinking about it gives you goose bumps.

For over twenty years, the then WWF waged war in competition for fans and TV ratings against WCW week in and week out. Then one day Mr. McMahon just dropped a brick of Benjamins on the table in front of his former foe. Check and mate. (Eww, gross… two old dudes. Barf!) Just like that, it was all over. Done. Finished. It’s a moment no pro wrestling fan will ever forget for many reasons, one of which being the unfortunate outcome of such a promising situation which was overflowing with potential.

When the McMahon shelled out roughly $4.2 million for a sinking ship, he did it so that he could prevent another baller from stepping in and putting up a fight. He had Ted Turner’s promotion down in the dirt when he seized the opportunity to finish it off with a chair shot.

Filled with a surplus of talent, even after cutting several undercard wrestlers, the equivalent to prelim fighters, from both sides, the WWE underwent a “Brand Extension” phase. They created two de facto shows, Smackdown and Raw, which had their own separate rosters, titles, everything under the illusion that they were competing against each other despite both being owned by McMahon and never airing on the same night.

The primary reason for the fall of pro wrestling is the rise of MMA. Dana won’t have to compete against himself so he’s already a step ahead of Vince. The gap between #1 and #2 is vast and desolate. Where the Mac Daddy failed, the Baldfather can succeed. Do not treat the newly acquired Strikeforce fighters like second-class citizens. Treating them like stepchildren still OK.

Over the next several years a steady decline in attendance, home video sales and pay-per-view buys have left the sports entertainment mecca a shell of its former self. Dana and the Fertitta’s would be remiss if they didn’t consider the following:

I believe that if Zuffa remains vigilant in their efforts to becoming larger than the NFL and becoming the biggest sport in the world, they are more than likely going to succeed. Who’s going to stop them, the NFL? Those buffoons can’t even figure out whether or not to play again next year and make a ton of money or not. Like that’s a tough question. Sheesh!

Will complacency set in? Not if Bellator or Shark Fights have any say in the matter. Those two promotions are the TNA of MMA. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Nevermind. With deals to broadcast their fights on MTV2 and HDNet respectively, the UFC isn’t technically out of competition to squash. At least not yet anyway.

There are far more legal issues at hand than a monkey like me can sift through. I’m sure there are many logical reasons for why we can’t and won’t get to watch Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem trade leather anytime soon. It’s quite possible that the legality of certain contract terms, Dana White is handcuffed until the deal with Showtime is up. Until then it’s just business as usual.

Cagepotato Comments

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MomJeans- March 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm
Why are you talking wrestling? Most of us didn't come over to MMA because of Brock and could care less about what's happening on the Y&R these days.
Summoner10- March 16, 2011 at 11:07 pm
I wonder how many times this boob has posted similar garbage on sherdogs forum since this has been the "vogue" topic WHENEVER the UFC buys or sinks any competition. It was creating a monopoly when they sank affliction, it was a monopoly when they bought the WEC and now this. And the only corrolation between mma and wrastling is they share a demographic. That's it and it literally means nothing. Oh lord, the UFC really needs to watch out for going-ons in the video game industry, what with them also partaking in the male 18-34 demographic. That statement holds about as much water as the premise for this ENTIRE article.

This is amateur journalism at its finest. The WWE/WWF became stagnant because it is a purely manufactured product, and alot of what the WWE did on air in the late 90's was them trying to one-up WCW. Explain how that fits into ANYTHING the UFC does. Especially since the UFC runs a legitimate sport and isn't run by a creative team trying to find the coolest way to match stone cold steve austin and triple H together for the 30th time in a fake fight. The UFC books you know ACTUAL fights between true sportsmen and athletes.

Most people don't balk at this foolish comparision because they're former wrestling fans, they balk at it because it's retarded.

It's like trying to say the NFL would be a better product today if friday night lights were still making new episodes. That is how unrelated MMA and the WWE are both in the actual product and the business end of things.
knucklesamitch- March 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Just edit your post...oh wait.
jimbonics- March 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm
Fucked those breaks up real good. Told you I got drunk last night.
jimbonics- March 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm
Sorry, I've had Sandy Vag the past couple of days on the internet. I also got reeeeally drunk last night. Or as I call it, Tuesday.
@ Pen Fifteen
Why do you think so many people hate him? Because he's a former meathead wrestler/juicer.
Yeah, that pretty much sums up my butt hurt. That and the crossover meathead demographic.
knucklesamitch- March 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm
I don't understand why everyone gets so butt hurt over the wrestling/MMA comparision. Sure, one is a male soap opera with scripted storylines and fixed "fights", and the other is a legit brand of martial arts, but the comparison is not that big of a deal.

I think if Pro wrestling was as popular today as it was from 1996-1999 no one would have a problem with the comparison, the problem is most of us have moved on from pro wrestling and are embarrassed to think we used to watch it, and for some, that translates to anger over the comparison.

No one with half a brain is going to confuse WWE or TNA with UFC or Strikeforce, but as far as mergers and acquisitions related to sports go, this is a completely appropriate comparison. Sure, we could use the AFL-NFL merger, but then, I wasn't alive then (and most people on this website probably weren't either), so I don't really have any actual knowledge of how it went down.
Pen Fifteen- March 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm
Did all the people bitching about how we shouldn't mention pro-wrestling and MMA in the same sentence forget about Brock Lesnar? For fuck's sake, making a comparison between the two doesn't mean people will suddenly start to think MMA is fake.
nickyroose- March 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm
Promoting a fighter and making a push for new talent is very similar to WWF style hijinx actually. Boxing is much the same. Where do you think they got it from?

Long ago Boxers and Wrestlers were both legit fighters. Do you think there is any difference between John Underling against The Rock and Mike Tyson versus Hector Mercedes?

Legit or not the promotions goal is the same profit line. It is less comparable to Football or Basketball then it is to WWF.
Spicymeatball- March 16, 2011 at 11:56 am
kellyman- March 16, 2011 at 11:22 am
Thanks for teaching me the meaning behind these Smackdown and Raw titles. I learned something here.
Cocky- March 16, 2011 at 11:19 am
Pretty funny and insightful. MMA + WWE = ?
KarmaAteMyCat- March 16, 2011 at 11:12 am
Wasn't refering to you jimbonics I ment the others. I know how you roll your fine.
Get Off Me- March 16, 2011 at 11:07 am
Jimbonics is closer to being right than regularbonj whether you like it or not.

Seriously, WWE and UFC/Zuffa LLC are very different.
regularbonj- March 16, 2011 at 11:03 am
i was going for quote of the year actually.
jimbonics- March 16, 2011 at 10:44 am
Really? In your eyes that's the ONLY difference? Quote of the Year material right there.
The only thing they have in common is the meathead demographic.
regularbonj- March 16, 2011 at 10:38 am
i think the ONLY difference between pro-wrestling and mma is that one is a legit contest and the other isn't. Other than that, they are massively comparable on virtually every level, and nothing else is. Boxing is a terrible comparison, it's too divided, any other martial is too small scale to compare, wwe is the only comparison, whether you like it or not.
Get Off Me- March 16, 2011 at 10:36 am
The biggest mistake WWF made when acquiring WCW was making it public knowledge.
Wrestling went down the tubes due to change in direction the WWE took when Linda Mcmahon was running for office combined with allowing pop culture to influence the company(John Cena) instead of the company influencing pop culture(Austin, Rock and DX). I miss the days of Austin 3:16, Rock's lingo and DX crotch chops, now it's all recycled wannabe's with first and last names trying to be eminem passing off catchphrases(you can't see me) from G-Unit as their own.

I do not think comparing WWE and Zuffa is relevant or logical when taking everything into consideration.
regularbonj- March 16, 2011 at 10:34 am
jimbonics, as much as you state pro-wrestling and mma shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath, you managed it. well done.
jimbonics- March 16, 2011 at 10:32 am
Or you could not get so defensive so often when people are being snarky. Is it so difficult?
I know he's talking about marketing and competition. I also know all too often MMA and Wrestling are seen as somewhat synonymous, which sucks ass. These kinds of comparisons don't help. SURELY there are other business acquisition examples that can be used for comparison besides fucking pro-wrestling.
KarmaAteMyCat- March 16, 2011 at 10:19 am
He's talking about marketing and competition. not chair shots and throwing mother fuckers through tables god be sensible and objective is it so difficult?
jimbonics- March 16, 2011 at 10:16 am
What can the UFC learn from pro-wrestling? I'll tell you what:
Pro-wrestling fucking sucks and should never be mentioned in the same breath as MMA. It's a joke of a comparison.
Dubbayoo- March 16, 2011 at 10:16 am
Oooh he threw in a graphic!
Rarghface- March 16, 2011 at 10:16 am
There are some decent valid points to be made, because if you look at the WCW buyout, the WWE obtained some fantastic wrestlers and some EPIC storylines. I mean shit, the potential for whatever the hell to happenw as OVERFLOWING and yet the ECW and WCW wrestlers were more or less treated like complete shit and their potential was thrown out the window to make WWE look great, even though it didn't matter because there was NO ONE ELSE for them to look great for. The article raises the valid point of look at what happened with wrestling, and that Dana White shouldn't make that same mistake. With that being said I'm sure that Dana White right now is more busy snorting cocaine off a hookers breasts than reading this article.
intercept440- March 16, 2011 at 10:16 am
@ loki Sweet Conan Reference Dude
Dagnut- March 16, 2011 at 9:55 am
And there goes the last remaining strands of credibility flying out the window....wrestling?