It’s easy to see why WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) could be losing viewers to UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). Both sports have had crossover athletes who have competed in both arenas. For example, Brock Lesnar became a UFC champion after a successful wrestling career. Both sports involve combat, grappling and theatre, so it is easy to see why followers would appreciate both forms of entertainment.
We will dive into the arguments and establish whether or not WWE is losing viewers to the UFC. One driving factor behind the popularity of both sports is the availability of betting markets. Where there are multiple betting markets, viewers want to add to the excitement of watching the events by placing a bet. UFC odds and wrestling odds are markets that are both growing in the online betting world.
Since its inception, the UFC has muscled in on the viewing figures of other combat sports. The primary one is boxing, where a number of viewers will watch both, or have moved over to UFC completely. There are various factors to consider when it comes to the switch from boxing to UFC. The UFC pit together the best fighters in their respective weight classes, and are known for putting several high-quality, evenly contested bouts on the same card, providing not only value for money but also a high level of entertainment.
On the other hand, boxing has been subject to a decline in quality matchups and has been heavily criticized for the biggest fights not taking place at the appropriate time. One example was the blockbuster matchup between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao – a fight that was in the pipeline for the best part of a decade.
Many analysts agree the fight should have taken place around 2009 or 2010, when Pacquiao had just knocked out Ricky Hatton and Mayweather had just defeated Juan Manuel Márquez. However, the fight itself did not take place until 2015, when both fighters were on the decline, and Pacquiao had been knocked out. The fight was a dull affair and didn’t quite live up to the billing, and many boxing fans were left disappointed.
This was combined with the fact that Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor’s mega-crossover matchup in 2017 was reportedly the second-highest grossing PPV event of all time. These are figures that both boxing and the UFC couldn’t ignore. The face of the UFC at the time drove over four million PPV buys.
The correlation between boxing and UFC is an easier one to bridge, compared with the WWE losing viewers to UFC. There are other factors to consider in the WWE. For example, many marquee PPV events tend to occur on a Saturday night, and in consequence, clash with the UFC. In addition to this, the WWE also place more emphasis on theatrics. While the UFC also plays into this with press conferences and weigh-ins, the WWE have more emphasis on storylines and drama.
The UFC has experienced a steady rise in the number of viewers watching their PPV events over the past half a decade. According to some statistics, the viewership of WWE Raw has fallen by about two million, from 2015 to 2020. It would be easy to look at these sets of figures and conclude that these viewers have made the journey across to the UFC.
However, just because people are losing interest in WWE, the wrestlers and their storylines, doesn’t automatically mean they’re all opting for the UFC, either.
Uncertainty in the world of wrestling has also played its part. The news that Vince McMahon was stepping down as chairman in July 2022 played a pivotal role in creating instability within the organization. McMahon has been the face of WWE for decades and was the main brain behind some of the biggest and most pivotal events in the history of WWE.
Also, as we touched on earlier in the piece, Brock Lesnar is an athlete who reached the highest level in both UFC and WWE. The news of McMahon leaving caused him to walk out, due to his close friendship with McMahon. This added further fuel to the fire of disruption within the ranks.
It may be too early to judge whether the viewers who are leaving the WWE are switching to the UFC. However, if these numbers continue to reflect positively on the UFC, it may be hard to disagree with this notion, as it could explain why the UFC is continuing its meteoric rise in viewing figures.