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How TKO plans to make every WWE fan a UFC fan, and vice versa


There are plenty of people who enjoy both pro wrestling and mixed martial arts. But you’ll also find many MMA fans who bristle at having their “real fights” even compared to pro wrestling, as if even discussing things the two forms have in common will result in the “fake stuff” diminishing their unscripted combat sport. Wrestling fans may be a little more accepting, but not many want every match to be a Bloodsport/Raw Underground-type worked-MMA fight.

We’re bringing this up, of course, because as of today (Sept. 12) UFC and WWE are now brands that operate under the same corporation — TKO Group Holdings. And in an interview about the merger of Endeavor-owned promotions, UFC senior executive vice president & chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein and WWE president Nick Khan both talked to ESPN about how they’ll work together.

According to Epstein, the aim of their collaboration to get to “where every UFC fan is a WWE fan and every WWE fan is a UFC fan.” It’s something he says UFC executives have been thinking about for 15 years:

“We’ve always thought there was just incredible opportunity to sort of roll up these two great brands and great organizations in the combat sports space. We were a little bit early in our thinking on this thing. And of course, it’s really exciting and really a dream come true to have this come together.”

With Dana White remaining in charge of UFC and Paul “Triple H” Levesque still running creative for WWE, those synergies TKO plans to take advantage of are initially behind-the-scenes. Even there though, things Epstein discussed with ESPN’s Marc Raimondi could impact fans. Things like:

... the UFC and WWE holding major events on the same weekend in one city and the two promotions going to tourism authorities and selling them on paying for the UFC and WWE as a package deal coming to their jurisdiction.

And then there’s Khan’s thoughts on talent crossover...

“UFC fighters are going to stay focused on the UFC and WWE superstars obviously do something different in our ring ... But you also see in the UFC people with big personalities who, once their UFC run is done, once the UFC and the fighter says, ‘Hey, maybe now’s the time to call it a day,’ could those people have a longer life at WWE, an extended life with TKO? We think so.”

We’ve already seen that play out with Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey. Not many will be as successful, but with TKO now invested in helping the UFC’s stars stay in the corporate family, we expect to see more try.

Is that going to help TKO achieve Epstein’s goal? Would Conor McGregor or Amanda Nunes transitioning to pro wrestling lead to more sold out UFC/WWE doubleheader weekends?

Could be a few years, but it seems we’re about to find out.

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