The UFC is too comfortable. The WWE was very comfortable, until AEW came around. The UFC could use a similar competitor.
All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite debuted on TNT this past Wednesday and immediately disrupted the hegemony of American professional wrestling by trouncing WWE’s NXT program in viewership and the key demo.
The ratings defeat is likely to cause some panic within WWE, despite their public face, causing changes to the way they present their programming. It will also likely cause them to make even more aggressive talent acquisitions. We may have seen the first such move with Cain Velasquez appearing on Smackdown’s Fox debut on Friday night.
MMA could very much use its own AEW to inspire some change and light a fire under the industry leader, UFC.
UFC has some competition in Bellator, but it’s less competition than it is supplemental programming. Bellator rarely goes head to head with UFC, and when they do, both promotions seem to run their events in silos with little maneuvering to try and one-up each other.
Other MMA promotions, such as Strikeforce, or going back even further, Pride, were swallowed up by UFC before any form of true MMA war could be started. Other promotions such as Invicta FC, or TKO MMA serve niche audiences and exist politely under UFC’s Fight Pass umbrella.
AEW didn’t go into business trying to take on WWE head to head. AEW picked Wednesday nights to stay out of the way of WWE’s flagship Raw and Smackdown programs. It was WWE who scrambled to secure a Wednesday night slot for the formerly streaming-only NXT program once AEW announced their plans.
This is where the two industry behemoths differ. Where WWE sees AEW’s mere existence as a threat and has chosen to go after them head to head, UFC insulates itself from its competition, making any disruption of their business difficult or impossible. With the bulk of their content locked behind a streaming paywall and only a handful of main cards on cable television each year, it’s hard to take a shot at UFC when they’re not even on the field.
AEW, through debuting on TV this week and WWE’s retaliation to it, made watching weekly wrestling fun again. MMA could use such a war to give a sense of urgency to what has become a very comfortable UFC.
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