Back in the early 2000s, UFC wasn’t the household brand it is seen as today. The company was mired in controversy, with one prominent US Senator, John McCain, even referring to it as “human cockfighting” because of the barbaric image the events brought to mind. It got to a point where SEG, the company which owned the franchise, was on the verge of bankruptcy and decided to sell.
On Something to Wrestle, Bruce Prichard recalled that Shane McMahon tried to encourage his father, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, to purchase the franchise, even holding meetings with two of the co-founders, Bob Meyrowitz and Campbell McLaren. However, he couldn’t persuade Vince to go through with the idea.
“Bob Meyrowitz was putting UFC out there in wanting to sell and also looking at ways to change, and, what have you. So, I know that Shane was definitely interested in buying the UFC and during that time, we had meetings with Meyrowitz and Campbell McLaren. I think that, first of all, originally they weren’t asking for a whole lot. They weren’t asking for a lot, but it was more than Vince was willing to pay at the time.
In the end, SEG sold the UFC franchise to Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, along with Dana White for $2 million. Prichard explained that he doesn’t know if WWE would have been able to achieve the turnaround that the three men were able to pull off.
“The overhaul on the UFC that the Fertittas were able to pull off, and Dana White with the overhaul with the rules and the presentation and everything else, was the best thing that could have happened to them. I don’t know that we as a company, could have overcome the stigma of WWE owning UFC and been able to make all the changes that UFC needed to make.”
We will never know how the MMA landscape would have looked if WWE had taken over UFC, however, Shane McMahon’s Raw Underground segments, which featured on WWE programming in 2020, might provide a glimpse of what could have been.
Credit to Ringside News for the transcription.