The next few UFC PPV cards will feature a freak show fight in James Toney-Randy Couture and the Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. It's well publicized how much of an impact pro wrestling has had on MMA in North America. The biggest drawing star in the history of the UFC is a man who made his name in the pro wrestling business. We've seen Bobby Lashley jump over to mixed results. Dave Bautista is trying to break into MMA. I'm sure we'll see more and more crossover as the sport gets more popular, if it does. This all led to me asking the question....how would The Rock do if he decided to come to the UFC?
Athletically speaking, I think he would be on the same level as a guy like Lesnar and way ahead of Lashley and Bautista. He's got a background as a former college football player with the University of Miami and of course, all his time with the WWE. He's always been pretty explosive with great size mixed in with speed. He has all the physical tools that, if combined with dedication and training, could make him a very good fighter.
The main thought to me is how well could it sell on PPV? Think of Lesnar. As stated earlier he made his name in the WWE. He debuted in mid 2002 and left in mid 2004. That's only 2 years worth of time, albeit spent almost entirely at the top holding the title. After leaving he tried out for the NFL and went over to Japan. He didn't debut in the UFC until February of 2008. That's almost an entire 4 year span of time that he wasn't in the public eye. Not only that, but he was crucified by many wrestling fans for leaving the way he did including during the absolute debacle of a match with Goldberg at WreslteMania XX. I'll be doing an entire post on that match so look for that in the near future.
Anyway, despite all of that he came in at UFC 81 and drew 600,000 buys in his first fight. His second fight did a little better and he hasn't drawn less than a million since then. If Brock, who The Rock put over at Summerslam 2002 by dropping the belt to him and making him look like a million bucks, can draw this well just based on those factors, imagine how well The Rock could do.
The Rock was a big time draw for the WWE, only ever rivaled by Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. His merchandise sold like hot cakes and the insane amount of coin that he made as the babyface foil to Triple H's monster heel in the year 2000 is unsurpassed. Now that he's gone on to star in more than a few movies, even though it's mostly Disney flicks, there are very few people who don't know who The Rock is. He's a marketing machine in and of himself. He could sell a PPV with absolutely no help at all. It wouldn't matter who his opponent is or if he might win or lose. It would only matter that he would be there.
So what's the number that I think he could pull? 2 million buys. The key to that number is that he would have to have the fight in the UFC. As much as he can market himself and pull his weight even without it, if the UFC did a complete media blitz the way you know they would, it would easily break the UFC PPV record. It might even break the Mayweather-De La Hoya record. Would the Rock have any interest in MMA? We've seen him at recent events such as UFC 116. Here is an interview he did way back in 2007 for ESPN in which he discusses MMA:
....mixed martial arts is just phenomenal. It is so hot, and it's clear to me why it's so popular. I have a ton of love and respect for those guys. I've become friends with a bunch of those guys and they have my support. I think mixed martial arts requires an amazing athleticism, and those guys must put together a strategy and a game plan every single time they go out and fight because it's not one-dimensional, it's not so predictable. On any given day, the greatest can go down. I think it's really exciting to see the success that MMA is having right now. Everything that that sport provides and all the attention that people are diverting to that entity right now is well-deserved, and it's -- well, it's a big deal and I'm excited about it.
Would this ever happen? No. Dana White is not totally against going the "freak show" route as evidenced by his putting on of the Couture-Toney fight. I think the money that could be made off of it would entice him enough to put on a Rock fight. But it wouldn't happen because The Rock would never do it. That doesn't mean we can't dream about how it would be.