How the UFC/WWE crossover could work out
The word is out that the WWE isn’t the huge force that it once was. You only have to take a quick look at the organisation’s report on its earnings for Q2 to see that the picture’s far from rosy – more in the red, in fact. The TV ratings are down by 11% for Raw and 11% for Smackdown. Attendances for live events are also down 2%and it’s also lost 120,000 subscribers. The one ray of hope is that digital engagement is on the rise. But that may not be what owners Fox want to hear. They want to know that the viewing figures will be there to attract the big advertisers.
But the general feeling is that the quality of the product has been on the slide and a certain level of boredom has started to creep in. The audience have seen it all before so what they want is novelty.
A lot of this has to do with the overfamiliarity of the audience with the same fighters coming up against each other again and again. So there’s a real feeling that it’s time for some lrish blood – and where better to get it from than the UFC?
After all, it’s already proved to be very successful in the case of Ronda Rousey who moved over from her MMA background when she signed a contract with WWE in 2018. She took to the crossover straight away and the same can be said about Brock Lesnar. He’s moved between the two a few times over the years and become UFC Heavyweight champion with the record number of title defences in his stint between 2008 and 2011.
His latest return to WWE was announced amidst great fanfares at a press conference held in Las Vegas in October 2019. He’s being lined up to fight old rival Cain Velasquez in a high profile meeting to be held in Saudi Arabia. WWE has an agreement to bring two of these spectacular shows to the country every year for 10 years up until 2028 with each one due to bring in around $25 million thanks to PPV. So the budget means that some serious cash can be thrown at putting on a spectacle featuring both incomers like Velasquez and Lesnar alongside familiar WWE faces like Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, John Cena, Triple H, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.
At the press conference it was also announced that the controversial boxer Tyson Fury would me one of the big names being brought in – in his case to fight against Braun Strowman. But behind the hullabaloo of the announcement, the drafting in of outsiders has upset some of the old guard who feel they’ll soon be overshadowed, and possible even beaten by the new arrivals. And, in the case of Fury even his manager Frank Warren has questioned the wisdom of him getting involved.
But when you look at how Ronda Rousey was received when she headlined WrestleMania, eventually losing to fans’ favourite Becky Lynch you just have to look at how popular these bouts can be. And when you’re trying to attract a PPV audience that can be a big factor in WWE’s decision making.
Looking slightly into the future, two UFC fighters who may be getting the call from the WWE are Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal. The pair are due to clash in New York’s Madison Square Garden at UFC 244 on 3rd November. According to the latest sports betting online Masvidal is the odds on favourite to emerge victorious so it could be him who will be the fighter most clearly in the sights of WWE.
Whatever happens in New York when the two meet we can be fairly confident that WWE will be continuing with its policy of doing whatever it takes to get those viewing figures up. Because, unless they do, there’s every reason to think that owners Fox will start to seriously consider cancelling Raw or Smackdown and demand a new way to get those all-important ratings back up to where they think they should be.
And, for any wrestling fan, this could mean there are some very unsettling times ahead.