WWE and UFC: A tale of two brands
March 26, 2001 is a day I will never forget as a lifelong professional wrestling fan.
For me, like millions of professional wrestling fans watching live and at home, it was a sign of things to come. No longer was the almighty World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment) in competition with its arch-rival World Championship Wrestling (WCW). No, but rather they now owned WCW, the same company that nearly ended Vince McMahon's sports entertainment empire in the late-1990s.
Around that same time, the little promotion that could in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) went bankrupt, later being officially acquired by WWE. By 2002, it was evident WWE was no longer competing against companies trying to take its business—but now competing against itself.
It's a decade later. WWE is now a publicly-traded company and the owner of the world's largest wrestling tape library. A WWE channel is in the works. WWE's flagship show “Monday Night Raw” is still going nearly 18 years strong. WWE's competition these days is all but laughable.
Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling
has had the money and media platform with WWE's former home Spike TV to carve its own niche in the market. Instead, the company has failed miserably in being nothing more than a WWE-ripoff, along with overpaying relics that haven't significantly contributed to wrestling in years (Brother!).
Ring of Honor (ROH) is essentially the ECW of this generation, albeit less revolutionary. ROH too, like its extreme predecessor, could on its way out with its HDNet TV deal not being renewed and attendance falling.
Once again, WWE is in competition with itself in the sports entertainment/wrestling industry.
Back in 2001, WWE wasn't the only company making moves though. The Ultimate Fighting Championship's parent company Zuffa LLC formed, looking to turn a struggling spectacle into a profitable sport. With hard work, millions of dollars sunk in, and a few lucky breaks, the UFC is now a billion dollar entity known worldwide.
UFC may specialize in mixed martial arts, but ask any casual fan what MMA is and they won't know. Ask them about UFC and chances are, they're heard of it—much like WWE and the term “wrestling.”
Since 2001, the UFC and more specifically, UFC President Dana White, have done their best Vince McMahon impression, buying out other organizations en route to market dominance.
When Zuffa purchased World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) in December of 2006, it was similar to WWE absorbing ECW or to go back even further, the WWF eliminating territorial promotions in the 1980s.
When Zuffa purchased Japanese-based Pride Fighting Championships in 2007, it was like WWE buying WCW all over again. The company that tried to maintain a stranglehold on MMA succumbed to its competition—much like WCW.
On Saturday, March 12, 2011, almost 10 years to the day WWE bought WCW, Zuffa purchased its largest North American competitor—Strikeforce.
What is shocking about the Strikeforce acquisition is the timing. When WWE bought WCW, WCW was on its last legs with low ratings, diminishing attendance, and losing its investors. When Zuffa bought Pride FC, the promotion was losing money and no longer had a TV deal due to rumored Japanese mafia ties.
Not only does Zuffa it own its greatest competition since Pride, but now has the rights to a property that is extremely viable--as well as a tape library to supply a rumored UFC channel in the works.
Strikeforce wasn't hemorrhaging money to the best of our knowledge. In fact, Strikeforce has just come off its most successful stretch, with a recent tear of exciting fights, including the opening night of its heavily-hyped heavyweight grand prix.
While “Strikeforce: Feijao vs Henderson” drew less than a half a million viewers on Showtime (still high numbers for the organization), the February event “Fedor vs Silva” drew a peak viewership of over one million. Unlike Pride, Strikeforce was purchased during its hottest period with a current TV deal with Showtime in place.