The UFC owes its business model to the WWE
The UFC owes a lot to the trailblazing and visionary Vincent Kennedy Mchamon the founder and CEO of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and I’ll tell you why.
Formed in 1993, the UFC has come a long way, becoming the most dominant MMA promotion in the game.
Ted Turner (owner of the TNT cable station in the U.S) once called McMahon shortly after purchasing a rival wrestling promotion (WCW) to let him know he was getting into the pro wrestling business, to which McMahom replied “That’s great Ted, but I’m in the entertainment business”
And that’s the key. Entertainment!
I have no shame in admitting that I LOVED the WWE (formerly WWF) growing up. I still remember begging my dad to stay up ‘’til 11 in the evening to watch Wrestle Mania.
Here’s what WWE and pro wrestling naysayers don’t get. Yes, of course all the outcomes are predetermined, but so is the arch on your favorite TV shows. That’s entertainment.
For all intents and purposes, the WWE gives us live action super heroes. It’s that simple. Big, larger than life characters that can captivate an audience. Good guys vs bad!
White has mentioned on many an occasion that “Vince is a f#%king animal” and he’s not wrong
It’s not an exaggeration to say that McMahon and the WWE invented the blueprint for what would become the standard-bearer for PPV’s and barely a week has gone by since the early 1980’s that the WWE haven’t put on some form of live event. There is no “off season” for the WWE.
McMahon is a pure force of nature. He knows marketing, he knows his audience and he knows how to get their money out of their pockets. Even his misstep with the defunct XFL yielded technological advancements that the NFL still uses today.
When the UFC started in 1993 it was a small promotion with no name fighters and today they’re a global media juggernaut valued at over $4Billion. How’d they do that? Was it just the fighting? HELL NO! It was part of the strategy to have flamboyant fighters capable of capturing the imagination of the audience.
White has mentioned in the past that Vince McMahon’s son, Shane, tried to persuade his dad to buy the UFC in its early days. I’m sure White is thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t.
Connor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, Brock Lesner and a heap of others have succeeded in the octagon not only for their physical prowess but also their charismatic personas.
McMahon knew this from very early on. If you were good i the ring but not on the microphone, then your chances of exploding on the sports entertainment scene were diminished.
I mean just think of the personalities that have come out of the WWE. Hell, the worlds biggest star, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson cut his teeth in the WWE and he’s not the only one.
The WWE is no stranger to MMA fighters. Ken Shamrock, CM Punk, Bobby Lashley, Brock Lesner and of course Rhonda Rousey have all straddled the sports entertainment fence. And I wouldn be surprised if I saw Conor McGregor show up sometime soon as well as WWE die hard fan Daniel Cormnier. The WWE is safer and offers its stars more longevity, not to mention the ability to make more money through endorsements and merchandise which the UFC stifles for its fighters.
White understands the showmanship the UFC needs to maintain its grip on the MMA world. He also understands that content is king!
The similarities between the WWE Streaming Network and UFC Fight Pass are as plain as day. Monthly PPV’s, weekly live shows and a slew of original content.
The WWE bought out its competition after the famous “Monday Night Wars” to acquire not only their names (WCW and ECW) but their whole back catalogue - a stroke of genius. New content mixed together with the nostalgic content assured that the WWE would maintain its fan base generation after generation.
UFC Fight Pass too has more than just UFC content. They put on reality shows, other promotions and even movies.
The biggest take the UFC has learnt from WWE is how to hype a match or event. Week-long media events, embracing social media, nurturing mic talent and the organization’s best leapforward as far as I’m concerned, video packages.
WWE vignettes or “hype reels” are the absolute best in the business! They weave a narrative in that gets viewers psyched. When you watch a WWE PPV, the preceding hype reel gives you everything you need to get pumped for the match. UFC has also started to do this and my word they are great. A huge improvement from only 5 years ago.
WWE was also one of the early pioneers of fusing sports with show business. The first WrestleMania had Muhammad Ali as a guest ref, Liberace as time keeper and Cindi Lauper as a manager. Some massive names in the 80’s and it hasn’t stopped even til now.
At the end of the day MMA and Professional Wrestling are 2 completely different sports, but are both reliant on “entertainment”. If you emphasize the entertainment, then you’re guaranteed a windfall manifesting itself in merch sales, PPV buys, enthusiastic live events and a permanent stamp on the zeitgeist of sport.
Even in 2020 when we thought live sports were still ways off, the WWE and UFC took the challenge head on and innovative ways to get content to their customers with all of the sports world taking notice.
This humble author salutes Vinnie Mac and all he’s done for the landscape of sport and entertainment as a whole.