The UFC is back in the news this week, largely in part from the announcement that Brock Lesnar will be fighting at UFC 200. Not only did this news seemingly come from nowhere, but WWE-contracted talent is rarely allowed to do anything outside of the WWE realm. The WWE and UFC publicly tend to look down at one another, even though the two companies have enough similarities to be viewed as competitors.
Oftentimes my posts may criticize the actions of the WWE (e.g. Roman Reigns is still a babyface as of the afternoon of June 6, 2016), yet there are many things that the WWE does right. And in turn, there are many things that the UFC could stand to learn from the WWE:
– Attitude – Hey UFC, stop taking yourself so seriously. Yes, your competitors are tough men and women who are putting their bodies on the line. The same can be said of boxing, which itself has plenty to learn from the wrestling world if it wants to stay relevant, but also of the WWE talent that wrestles. Like WWE, the UFC is an entertainment company. Sports is entertainment. Entertainment is full of fantasy and “what if?” scenarios from fans and media coverage. In turn, you can’t be afraid to put some humor and light-heartedness in what you do.
– Mid-Card – Loyal WWE fans can find fault in the WWE’s build-up of main event talent that isn’t deserving. However, there is a lot of recognizable and memorable talent within the lower-card and mid-card of WWE. Maybe The Social Outcasts aren’t your thing, but they serve their purpose in making other talent look great as they portray loudmouth heels. Similarly, The Golden Truth may not have fans convinced that they are tough or unbeatable — although the two are obviously tough if they can withstand this many years as world-traveling wrestlers — but they serve their purpose as light-hearted babyfaces that make the crowd laugh. Where are the lower-card UFC fighters that everyday people know about?
– Indie Circuit – After a WWE talent member gets “future endeavored,” they are likely to be hitting the indie circuit. While there are competing organizations to the WWE, where is the respectable indie circuit for MMA? It is only a recent development for WWE to be partnering with indie companies to present the Global Cruiserweight Series, but that’s a step in the right direction. Same goes for the WWE signing a lot of talent from TNA and Ring Of Honor as of late. The UFC ought to look into acknowledging its competitors and the talent that is not currently working for them.
– Alumni – A lot of WWE talent has crossed over to the mainstream over the years. The Rock is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Batista looks like he’s on the same path as The Rock with a bunch of recent starring roles. Jesse “The Body” Ventura became the Minnesota’s Governor. Ric Flair constantly pops up in hip-hop and sports references. “Macho Man” Randy Savage was in a “Spider-Man” movie. Terry Funk was in “Roadhouse.” Hulk Hogan starred in a full season of “Thunder In Paradise.” Just to name a few wrestlers that worked outside of WWE. Sure, we saw Ronda Rousey in the “Entourage” movie, Randy Couture in “The Expendables,” a mix of UFC stars in a Mandy Moore music video…But where’s the acknowledgment of the UFC of what its talent does after their in-ring heyday? Be proud of your alumni.
– Video Library – Speaking of the past, the WWE has made its tape library hot again via the WWE Network. Fans can now watch almost anything they wanted to see from the major WWE pay-per-views and a lot of the WWE TV shows from over the years. The WWE Network includes the libraries of other companies as well, emphasizing that there is rich history within sports-entertainment. Last year UFC announced that it was acquiring the tape libraries of other MMA brands for the UFC Fight Pass, but how many people do you hear talking about the UFC Fight Pass? Where is the excitement built up around rivalries from 10 or 15 years ago? Following the WWE Network’s model, old footage can further be repurposed into specials with current talent talking about the significance of that old content.
– Media Relationships – Sure, the WWE has its media enemies. However, the WWE of 2016 gives media access to podcasts, poorly-assembled sites like Buzzfeed, and blogs. The UFC’s banning of Ariel Helwani — in terms of him holding media credentials — for breaking the Brock Lesnar and Conor McGregor stories is a sham. In a day and age where TMZ is the source for lots of celebrity news stories (e.g. Prince’s passing, Conan O’Brien’s firing from NBC), how can a company welcome TMZ coverage and also decline a knowledgeable journalist that has long supported MMA? Banning Ariel Helwani would be comparable to WWE banning Dave Meltzer. Sure, the WWE probably resents Meltzer’s ability to get scoops and broadcast unflattering things about the company, but they also realize that his coverage keeps the brand popular.
Fortunately for UFC’s sake, the Brock Lesnar fight at UFC 200 is going to bring in a lot of WWE fans that did not previously order a UFC pay-per-view.