There are almost limitless possibilities for TKO Group Holdings — the merged company between UFC and WWE — and that may include massive event weekends in the same city and arena.
Just hours after TKO started trading on the New York Stock Exchange, WWE president Nick Khan spoke about conversations that are already happening that would see the professional wrestling outfit potentially team up with the UFC to help each other after being competitors while chasing after a similar demographic amongst fans. Now that the two companies are combined, UFC and WWE will work together, which may eventually result in shared productions over a full weekend of events.
“So the conversations are just beginning now,” Khan teased on The Bill Simmons podcast. “Everybody wanted to make sure that we got all the regulatory approvals in place, Department of Justice approval, SEC approval, a couple of international approvals that we needed, and obviously we got all of those, so the conversations are just happening now.
“Yes, what everyone envisions is can you set up an all-star TKO weekend where if Smackdown goes on Friday and the UFC goes on Saturday with a pay-per-view and WWE goes with a premium live event on Sunday, can you do that from the same city? Certainly a lot of cost efficiencies there in terms of production. But a lot revenue efficiencies in terms of upside, we think there as well.”
Right now there are numerous dates throughout the year where UFC and WWE are basically counterprogramming against each other during certain nights of the weeks. It particularly happens on Saturdays, when the UFC holds events such as live Fight Night cards or pay-per-views, while WWE hosts a premium card like WrestleMania, SummerSlam or the Royal Rumble.
Now that the companies are working together, Khan hints at UFC and WWE working toward a common goal and helping each other along the way.
While UFC and WWE are now operating under one roof and those huge event weekends are possible, Khan was dubious on any potential crossover between the performers in each brand during their active careers. However, he said a retired UFC fighter could potentially have a second life in the WWE.
“UFC fighters are going to stay focused on the UFC, and WWE superstars obviously do something different in our ring,” Khan told ESPN.com. “But you also see in the UFC people with big personalities who, once their UFC run is done, once the UFC and the fighter says, ‘Hey, maybe now’s the time to call it a day,’ could those people have a longer life at WWE, an extended life with TKO? We think so.”
However, for the mean time, UFC will continue promoting live MMA events, while WWE remains scripted athletic drama. In other words, don’t expect Roman Reigns to show up in an octagon any time soon, or Conor McGregor to start cutting promos in the squared circle.
“The fighters and the WWE superstars will stay separate, as you might imagine,” Khan said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “Could you have a Ronda Rousey or a Brock Lesnar [type] come along who can cross from one to the other? Sure, but that’s once in a decade, if not longer type of thing.
“But in terms of production, Kevin Dunn, who’s been with WWE for 40 plus years, and Craig Borsari, who’s been with UFC for over a decade, who’s in charge of all the production there, they’ve had a number of conversations on those efficiencies, how it might look, how it might work, and hopefully we have some news on that in a couple of months.”
Another huge part of the merger between UFC and WWE will be broadcast rights fees, which will be negotiation for both companies in the near future.
WWE’s current deals with NBCU and FOX expire in October 2024, with streaming rights at NBCU running through 2026. Meanwhile, the UFC’s current broadcast rights run through ESPN with that deal coming to an end in 2025.
It’s possible that TKO could position both UFC and WWE into one single rights package, or the two could stay totally separate. Those two media rights deals played a huge part in the merger, especially as investors look a huge windfall for UFC and WWE over the next few years.
“Let’s see what happens,” Khan said. “We’re thrilled with NBCU, we meaning WWE and UFC seems to be thrilled with Disney but yes it can always get better so let’s see.”