Fighting is one of the oldest forms of competition known to man, with its roots tracing back to ancient civilizations. In today’s world, there are various fighting sports and entertainment options available for fans to choose from. Two popular combat sports that often get compared and contrasted are UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).
While both involve physical confrontations between two competitors, there are significant differences between the two. UFC is a mixed martial arts (MMA) organization that features various fighting styles, including striking and grappling techniques. In comparison, WWE is a professional wrestling company that showcases scripted matches with predetermined outcomes.
5 Differences Between UFC and WWE
1. Main Objective
The main objective of UFC is to defeat your opponent using various fighting techniques and be declared the winner. In contrast, WWE’s main objective is to entertain the audience with scripted storylines and predetermined outcomes. While there is a level of athleticism involved in WWE, the focus is more on entertainment rather than legitimate competition.
In WWE, we can see superstars often ‘playing to the crowd’ and utilizing showmanship to captivate the audience. In contrast, UFC fighters are solely focused on defeating their opponent and securing a victory. Although some fighters in the cage do try to hype up the crowd, their main focus always remains on winning the fight.
2. Rules and Regulations
UFC has strict rules and regulations that govern the fights, ensuring the safety of its fighters. Some of these include no biting, eye-gouging, or groin attacks, among others. In WWE, while there are rules in place, they are often broken for entertainment purposes. For example, a wrestler may blatantly hit their opponent with an illegal chair shot, but it is part of the show and not considered a real violation.
UFC has weight classes to ensure fair matchups between fighters of similar sizes and abilities. In contrast, WWE often showcases ‘David vs. Goliath’ matchups, where a smaller wrestler takes on a larger opponent for the sake of entertainment. Rey Mysterio was always my favorite ‘David’ in WWE, taking down giants like Big Show and Kane.
3. Training and Preparation
UFC fighters undergo rigorous training in various disciplines such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling to prepare for their fights. This includes physical conditioning, sparring sessions, and strategizing with coaches and teammates.
WWE superstars also train extensively to perform their athletic stunts and choreographed matches, but the focus is more on honing their performance skills rather than actual fighting techniques.
UFC fighters must also adhere to strict dietary guidelines and undergo regular drug testing to ensure a level playing field. In WWE, while there are wellness policies in place, there have been instances of performers using performance-enhancing drugs to maintain their physiques and perform at a high level.
Both athletes may partake in what’s known as pre-fight rituals, but they differ in nature. UFC fighters may engage in meditation or visualization techniques to mentally prepare for their upcoming fight, while WWE superstars often have signature entrance routines and catchphrases to hype up the audience before a match.
4. Fighting Styles
UFC focuses on real fights where athletes use different techniques to defeat their opponents. These techniques include striking, grappling, and submissions, with the goal of either knocking out or forcing a submission from the opponent.
In contrast, WWE matches are heavily scripted and predetermined. The focus is on storytelling and entertainment rather than actual fighting styles.
Some WWE superstars do incorporate elements of mixed martial arts into their performances, such as Ronda Rousey who utilizes her judo background in her move set.
A few WWE moves do also have real-life applications, such as the Boston Crab / Walls of Jerico submission hold which originated in professional wrestling but has been adopted by MMA fighters as well. However, most WWE moves are not practical in a real fight and are primarily used for entertainment purposes.
5. Pay and Recognition
The pay and recognition of UFC fighters and WWE superstars also differ greatly. This is because the level of each sport’s popularity and profitability varies. Each fighter/athlete also has different pays than others, but we can compare the average numbers and the all-time highest-earning ones.
According to Triple H, WWE Superstars on the main roster can anticipate a minimum base salary of $250,000. For some, that may be a low payout considering the amount of work and travel they put in. While others may feel like the stardom and recognition they receive make up for it.
The top stars can earn millions of dollars per year through merchandise sales, endorsements, and bonuses. For example, John Cena, The Rock, and Steve Austin are the highest-paid WWE superstars in history, but these notable names used their brand from WWE to pursue an acting career. If it was purely from WWE the top names would range from $2-$8.5 million.
UFC fighters earn significantly less on average with a base pay of $12,000 – $16,000 per fight. Of course, this can earn more through sponsorships, bonuses, and pay-per-view buys. However, UFC fighters do not have the same level of recognition as WWE superstars. They are often only recognized by hardcore MMA fans and do not have the same mainstream appeal.
In terms of pay, it can be argued that WWE superstars earn more on average compared to UFC fighters. With that base salary of $250,000, a WWE superstar can earn more in one year than a UFC fighter would in multiple fights.
Fighters also have to pay their own training and travel expenses, whereas WWE takes care of those costs for their superstars. Managers also take a cut of a fighter’s earnings, and although some WWE athletes have publicists, it is not as common because their merchandise and persona is directed by WWE.
Of course, main event headlines can usually earn around $500,000 to $1 million per UFC fight, but those opportunities are limited and reserved for the top-tier fighters. Meanwhile, WWE superstars have a more consistent income with regular paychecks and the potential for bonuses.
Only rare stars that bring in a new fanbase such as Conor Mcgregor or Rhonda Rousey can gain leverage in negotiations to get a payout similar to a WWE superstar.
UFC vs WWE (Which One Is More Popular?)
The WWE has 13.7M X (formally Twitter) Followers as of February 2024 and the UFC has 12M. The UFC is winning on Instagram with 39.9M followers where as WWE has 30.9M. This is only a surface level comparison, but it shows that both organizations have a strong social media presence and fan base. It can be argued that WWE is still more popular because it has been around longer and has a larger international presence.
However, UFC has been gaining more mainstream attention in recent years with high-profile events like the Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov fight. It also has the advantage of showcasing real-life combat sports which can appeal to different audiences compared to scripted storylines in WWE.
If we compare the top stars such as The Rock, Romain Reigns, John Cena, and Hulk Hogan to names like Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Jon Jones, it is clear that both organizations have a strong roster of charismatic and talented individuals.
Each organization has their own unique style and appeals to different audiences. Answering this question is even more difficult when WWE stars compete in MMA and vice versa. For example, Brock Lesnar has had successful stints in both organizations and Ronda Rousey made the switch from UFC to WWE.
WWE x MMA Crossover
There have been several instances of crossover between WWE and MMA, with stars from both organizations trying their hand at the other sport. This has generated a lot of buzz and excitement among fans, as they get to see their favorite wrestlers or fighters compete in a different format.
Boxers such as Floyd Mayweather have crossed into WWE before and MMA fighters like Conoor Mcgregor has crossed into boxing for a mega fight. However, a major collaboration between WWE and UFC has yet to happen. While some elements of MMA made it into WWE storylines, the two organizations have yet to fully merge or collaborate on a major event.
The closest thing we’ve seen to this is the Cain Velasquez vs Brock Lesnar match at WWE Crown Jewel in 2019. This was a highly anticipated matchup as both men had backgrounds in MMA and it brought together fans from both organizations to tune in. They also fought in the UFC with Cain Velasquez defeating Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight Championship in 2010.
The Future of MMA and WWE
Both organizations are poised for continued growth and success, with MMA becoming more mainstream and WWE expanding into new markets around the world. The UFC may have competitors such as ONE Championship but they still remain the top dog in the world of MMA.
Dana White and the Fertita Brothers have been known for buying up smaller organizations and merging their fighters into the UFC. The early days of WWE saw them buy up competitors such as WCW and ECW to become the dominant force in professional wrestling.
TKO Group Holdings Inc. which was created by Endeavor now owns both as they merged Zuffa (UFC’s parent company) and WWE. This corporate mash up doesn’t mean that the two organizations will collaborate more. It just means they do business together to avoid competition.
Under the same umbrella, it’s unlikely we’ll see the two organizations will start swapping rosters or anything. Each brand will be treated as separate entities, each with its own style and fan base. We did see teases of what could have been a Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar match in the UFC (or WWE) but it never materialized.
Is The WWE UFC Merger Beneficial For Mixed Martial Arts?
I’d argue that the potential merger could be beneficial for mixed martial arts (MMA) as a whole. While some may view this proposed merger as a move towards monopolization of the combat sports industry, there are several reasons why it could actually benefit MMA.
Firstly, the WWE is a massive global brand with a huge fan base and reach. By merging with the UFC, it could bring in more mainstream attention and exposure to MMA. This could potentially attract new fans and viewership, leading to increased revenue and growth for the sport.
Moreover, the WWE has a well-established business model that has proven successful in generating profits. From merchandising to pay-per-view events, the WWE has built a lucrative empire. If this same model is implemented in the UFC, it could result in more financial stability for fighters and organizations within the MMA industry.
However, there are also concerns that the merger could result in the watering down of MMA’s authenticity and integrity. Fans immediately attacked the decision by saying that WWE’s scripted and predetermined outcomes would harm the legitimacy of MMA. They argue that UFC’s reputation as a pure and unscripted sport could be damaged by association with the WWE.
Is The WWE UFC Endeavor Good For Pro Wrestling?
The proposed merger could also have a positive impact on the world of professional wrestling. While there may be some overlap in terms of fans and viewership between WWE and UFC, there are still many MMA fans who do not watch pro wrestling, and vice versa.
UFC has been seen as a more serious and legitimate sport compared to the often scripted and storyline-driven world of professional wrestling. By merging with the WWE, UFC could potentially bring in new fans who were previously turned off by the perceived “fake” nature of pro wrestling.
They can respect the entertainment value of the WWE’s product while also appreciating the athleticism and intensity of MMA. This could lead to increased interest and viewership for both industries, creating a win-win situation for both UFC and the WWE.
Now, under TKO Group Holdings, Inc. (TKO), the new parent company of both UFC and WWE, there combined resources and expertise could lead to even bigger and better events and productions. Fans may realize there are just as many similarities as differences between the two industries, and be drawn to both for their own unique qualities.
Now that we explored the differences and similarities between MMA and WWE, as well as the crossover between both organizations, it’s clear that they have their own unique elements and fan bases. While they may be under the same corporate umbrella with TKO Group Holdings, Inc. (TKO) overlooking both industries, it’s important to recognize and respect the individuality of each.