The past 40 years has seen WWE fight its competitors tooth-and-nail, putting the majority of them out of business either by acquiring them or through attrition (better produced product, hiring away their talent, signing exclusivity contracts with the arenas in which they had run shows, etc). Whether it was a decades-old, firmly established giant like World Championship Wrestling owned by Ted Turner, an edgy up-start alternative like the independent ECW run by Paul Heyman, or the countless territories from the 1980s, Vince McMahon has succeeded in turning the WWE into an industry juggernaut which is coming close to having a monopoly in the United States wrestling industry. At this point, with Impact Wrestling floundering and Ring Of Honor never having gained a significant television network foothold, their main competition isn’t another wrestling company, it’s the UFC.

Instead of competing with one another, there’s plenty evidence that the two companies have moved away from simply trying to co-exist, and they are essentially forming a partnership. Despite there not being as large an overlap between MMA fans and sports entertainment fans as one might expect, this partnership is the perfect move for Dana White and Vince McMahon, and will likely be hugely beneficial to both.

The benefits for the WWE are quite obvious. They are always looking for new, exciting talent to showcase and new pockets of potential fans to entice. Traditionally they have looked to talent in other wrestling organizations to hire as performers, especially the ones who have significant fanbases or are lightning rods (even when the attention they’ve garnered is of a negative-tilt). Bringing in MMA competitors who are looking to put MMA behind them, is a great strategy for the WWE and MMA stars. Quite a few big names in UFC history suddenly dropped off or disappeared, for a variety of reasons. For some, it was due to injury. Others had “lost a step” or were past their prime. It’s easy to imagine someone simply looking to build a future that doesn’t involve having to deal with the potential for debilitating injuries or the lingering effects of the brutality MMA brings. That’s not to say that sports entertainment doesn’t take its physical toll, but getting knocked unconscious or breaking a bone or tearing a ligament or tendon while performing in the WWE constitutes an accident having occurred. In MMA, it’s typically because someone succeeded in implementing their gameplan.

It’s not a new concept by any means. Bill Goldberg and The Rock both transitioned from playing football at a high level to being near the top of the wrestling world. Brock Lesnar departed the UFC because his health issues made it near impossible to sustain success in MMA, which certainly hasn’t stopped him from being one of the top draws in the WWE. Ronda Rousey was arguably the top draw in all of MMA a couple years ago, but then she met an opponent who stopped her incredible run, and Ronda made the decision to make the switch to professional wrestling, where all of her skills could be put on display without the significant risk of brain damage or broken bones in her face.

And who could blame her?

It wouldn’t be surprising if other names followed suit. Guys like Forrest Griffin, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn, Jon Jones, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, just to name a few, were once huge names in MMA, and have since fallen off considerably for a variety of reasons. Not since 2008 has a UFC Heavyweight Champion been over 40. Just last year, the now 40-year-old Lesnar fought the 50-year-old Bill Goldberg for the top championship in WWE in the main event of WrestleMania. Jon Jones is about to turn 31 and isn’t as big an asset to UFC as he had been in the past due to failed drug tests. Though it’s unclear why he turned to performance enhancers, their use is typically due to a performer trying to ensure their continued relevance / dominance. Jones wouldn’t have to worry about that in the WWE, where wins and championships aren’t the combined result of who had the better physical conditioning, skillset, gameplan and luck. Jones was once deemed so relevant in the world of sport that he became the first mixed martial artist to be sponsored on an international scale by Nike. Now he’s something of a pariah in the industry. Anderson Silva was also sponsored by Nike, and yet despite his 17-straight victories from 2006 thru 2012, he only has one victory in the six fights which followed. It’s not hard to imagine an entertaining battle between Anderson Silva and Samoa Joe, among others, and the fanbase which would follow Silva into the WWE could have been huge.

Might fans simply dismiss these performers as “washed up MMA guys”? Perhaps, but that sort of stigma didn’t stay with Bill Goldberg, The Rock, or Brock Lesnar. Show some talent, show that the performer represents something different than what’s part of the rest of the roster, and people won’t care where they came from, they’ll just be impressed by the performer.

WWE would benefit significantly by obtaining performers who were no longer able to compete in the UFC at a high level, that part is obvious. But losing some of those top names, despite whatever their depleted skillset might be, would be a loss for the UFC. What would they have to gain from a partnership with WWE?


Much to the chagrin of many long-time WWE fans, the trend towards producing content aimed at younger viewers is quite successful. WWE reaches a very young portion of the population, many of whom become hooked on sports entertainment for decades to come. They represent huge revenues in merchandise sales, first while their parents are footing the bill, and extending into that coveted young-adult / disposable income demographic. But what of the kids who grow up and become disillusioned with WWE for a variety of reasons. Given a partnership and cross-promotion between WWE and UFC, the young fans who grew up hearing the term “UFC” and were told “you’re not old enough to watch that yet” or “we’re not paying for those PPVs because they cost a lot and are on past your bedtime” are now old enough to stay up and watch, paying for the PPVs with their own money, and they’ve already got the intrigue.

And what of those costly pay per views? WWE came up with a profitable streaming service, and they could help UFC do the same. They could, perhaps, do a joint venture whereby a single subscription (of, say, $14.99 per month?) could provide access to both WWE and UFC content, or perhaps UFC could just agree to pay WWE a percentage of their revenues from a streaming service WWE helped them establish.

There’s also the potential for having cross-over matches, not too dissimilar from what Conor McGregor did with Floyd Mayweather. Perhaps that’s what we’re seeing with Brock Lesnar getting back into the octagon to face Daniel Cormier. It wouldn’t have to be a professional wrestler entering the world of MMA, though. Perhaps someone like Georges St. Pierre is considering retirement at the height of his fame due to lingering injuries or health-related concerns. Instead of essentially retiring in 2013 in his early 30s, maybe someone like CM Punk could have stepped up and started a feud to bring GSP into the world of professional wrestling for a scripted storyline. A match (or series of matches) between the two could have given GSP a break from MMA, a feel for how it might be to become a professional wrestler. In turn, it could have allowed Punk some insight into the world of MMA both through working with GSP on how to put together a match, all the while gaining GSP’s insight into the world of MMA. Instead, GSP was on the shelf for 3 years and CM Punk quit WWE to try his hand at MMA anyway.

The only huge downside to a partnership between WWE and UFC would be experienced by the competition. I would highly doubt that the likes of Impact Wrestling or Bellator could overcome the juggernaut the partnered companies would constitute.