After rumors persisted about Chicago native and WWE superstar CM Punk walking down to the Octagon with Chael Sonnen at UFC on FOX 2 this Saturday night, it made me wonder if the UFC and WWE can work together and crossover. When talking to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, Chael Sonnen made an interesting point about why he wanted “The Voice of the Voiceless” to walk out to the cage with him.
One… we’re friends, two… I really like him, three… it’s his hometown, four… he’s a big UFC fan and five… there is major crossover. A number of years ago I think we all thought we had to compete with each other. That boxing, MMA and wrestling thought that we were going to have to have our own fans but what we have learned with time is that it’s not true. People are crossover fans and just all around fans, especially when you’re talking about CM Punk here in Chicago. That guy is royalty around here and I think it would have been fun for both of us.
Chael touched on an interesting point that I have been saying for years. How is professional wrestling, which is sports entertainment, in direct competition with the UFC? They don’t compete directly with PPVs nor do they compete directly on cable television. Show me how the UFC or the WWE have suffered in pay-per-view revenue because of one another?
It also seems that Dana White has a great deal of respect and admiration towards Vince McMahon. You can see how some of the marketing over the last couple of years has emulated professional wrestling in some respects. Yes MMA is a legitimate sport, and professional wrestling is professional athletes acting. I know… I get it. Please keep the hate mail to yourself and hear me out.
I know some of you are pulling your hair out once again because I just compared the UFC to the WWE, but I hate to burst your bubble, there are a lot of fighters who have also grasped onto the idea that marketing oneself through cutting a good promo and hyping a fight is a great way to get noticed and make money. Sure nobody is ripping their shirts off and telling you to say your prayers and eat your vitamins, but adding a little spice and bringing out some personality is sure a hell of a lot better than thanking your trainers, God, and telling the fans that you will fight whoever the UFC lines up. Zzzzz…boring.
Chael Sonnen seems to understand this “technique” the most. Sure, it’s not for everyone. The sport still needs guys like GSP and Junior Dos Santos; all round good guys who do their talking in the cage. The sport is full of honorable classy guys and gals who feel they don’t need to talk a bit of trash, but you have to love Nick Diaz, Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, Josh Koscheck, Ronda Rousey and Josh Barnett for stepping out of that mold and giving the UFC and Strikeforce some personality. Imagine if all fighters were like NHL hockey players? I don’t think the sport would survive. It’s the fight game and with fights there needs to be hype. This has been the way since the beginning of time. Hell, it worked wonders when the Romans promoted their Gladiators. Not much has changed.
Getting back to the point or the question of why the UFC can’t cross promote with the WWE? It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. Remember when Ken Shamrock made his run in the WWF back in the 90’s? He came into professional wrestling in his prime and was marketed as the “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” a moniker ABC News gave him while he was fighting in the controversial UFC. He was a UFC fighter getting into the WWF ring to feud with the likes of Vader, Brett “The Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels to name a few.
The WWF at the time had no problems having a former UFC fighter in their stable. To them it brought more legitimacy to their brand of sports entertainment. Since then we have seen boxers like Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas and Floyd Mayweather cross promote within the WWE realm. Why would it be so crazy to see a UFC fighter do the same? Or vice versa?
Before Brock Lesnar retired there were rumors of him doing a special appearance at a Wrestlemania event to promote his upcoming UFC bout. Now how close that was to coming to actual fruition is not known. Those were merely just rumors and nobody really knows if that was accurate.
However, now that Lesnar is retired, do you not think that if he returned to the WWE that the storyline would be a former UFC heavyweight champ makes his return to the WWE ring? First off, it’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when” Brock Lesnar returns to the WWE. They wouldn’t all of a sudden put him into their video game if they didn’t think he would make a return. The WWE is going to take their time in building his return to professional wrestling much like they have done with The Rock and his upcoming Wrestlemania bout with John Cena. Think about it, Lesnar hasn’t been in a WWE video game since “Here Comes The Pain” in 2003. Why did they all of a sudden include him now? When Lesnar does make his much anticipated debut how many UFC fans do you think will be tuning in? Don’t lie…you’ll watch.
Professional Wrestling, the UFC and boxing have proved that they can co-exist because in some ways they have very different target markets. Guess what? Some of their audience do crossover to each other. It is true Boxing has an older demographic, WWE has a younger demographic and the UFC seems to have an audience somewhere in the middle. Since the UFC has become more mainstream, those audiences are starting to blur into each other, which is great for all three sport entities. Why can’t someone enjoy boxing, MMA and wrestling? From what I’m seeing there are quite a few people who do.
Chael Sonnen is now playing down CM Punk’s appearance at UFC on FOX 2, claiming Vince McMahon kyboshed the idea. Who knows how accurate that is? WWE’s Royal Rumble is the next day and a little advertising at a UFC event to try and get a few more PPV buys doesn’t hurt. I wonder if this is Chael playing the media to make CM Punk’s appearance even more surprising when it does happen. We shall see. Nothing surprises me anymore.
Last year, there were meetings between Dana White and Vince McMahon. DW has never really divulged what those meetings were about. I do know at the time the WWE needed permission to use Brock Lesnar in their 2012 WWE video game and also allow Brock to promote it. Maybe there was an agreement in place to work together when it was convenient to help promote pay-per-views. With economic times being tough in the States, finding another marketing channel to advertise on once in a while is not always a bad thing.
Why would it be so crazy to see CM Punk walk down with Sonnen? It’s really not that big of a deal. We have seen WWE stars at live UFC events in the past. If Mike Goldberg were to mention that CM Punk is walking out with Chael Sonnen, and elude to the fact that he is involved in the WWE’s Royal Rumble on Sunday afternoon, would that be a bad thing? We have seen boxing and the WWE do crossovers. This symbiotic relationship has led to Batista walking out with Manny Pacquiao and HHH accompanying Mayweather to the ring.
On occasion, I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a UFC fighter do an appearance at a WWE event, or seeing a WWE guy walk out with a UFC fighter. Or maybe we see a UFC star like Nick Diaz try his hand at professional boxing or a high profile professional boxer enter the Octagon…oh wait we saw that already…never mind. You get what I mean.
MMA fans quiver when someone compares their sport to professional wrestling. What people forget is that if it wasn’t for professional wrestling, there would be no UFC. Here is something you may not have known. The UFC would have never had season one of the Ultimate Fighter on Spike had it not been for Vince McMahon giving Spike permission to air the show after Monday Night Raw. The rest is history. That is a fact.
That said, the UFC and WWE can work together on occasion and it can be mutually beneficial. I’m not sure what the big deal is. I haven’t been a huge WWE fan since “The Attitude Era” ended but I can understand the buzz that is created when the two organizations do a little crossover. It’s all in good fun. It’s true that Professional wrestling and MMA are apples and oranges but let’s not forget that they do come from the same fruit bowl.
Follow Trevor Dueck on Twitter @tdueckmania