The worlds of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts could be merging in a big way. According to CNBC, Ari Emanuel’s media giant Endeavor, which owns the UFC, has agreed to acquire WWE, creating a dominant force in live events and cementing its status as a leader in combat sports competitions.
The acquisition would bring together two of the biggest names in sports entertainment under one roof. The new company, which will be worth more than $21 billion, will be publicly traded, with Endeavor owning 51 percent and WWE holding the remaining 49 percent. Endeavor’s other units, including the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, will remain a separate publicly traded company.
The deal is the latest in a string of high-profile wins for Emanuel, who has transformed his talent agency into a multi-pronged media group. With live events becoming increasingly important for cable TV and streaming services, Endeavor is looking to tap into the growing demand for such programming.
As Mark Shapiro, Endeavor’s president, told The New York Times, “Must-watch TV is a rarity these days. And unicorns like the UFC and WWE will be heavily in demand.”
Both WWE and the UFC have made significant inroads in the streaming space in recent years. The WWE streams its signature event, WrestleMania, on Comcast’s Peacock, while the UFC broadcasts matches on Disney’s ESPN+. Both companies also offer their programming on traditional TV, with UFC fights available on a pay-per-view basis and WWE programming broadcast on Fox and NBCUniversal’s USA channel.
For Vince McMahon, the WWE’s chief, the acquisition would mark the latest chapter in a storied career. McMahon took over the company from his father and turned it into a television and live-event powerhouse. However, he stepped down last July following reports that the company’s board was looking into a $3 million settlement he had paid to an employee with whom he had had an affair. McMahon returned as executive chairman in January to help guide the company through a sale and will retain that role in the new entity.
The merger of WWE and the UFC would undoubtedly shake up the sports entertainment industry, with fans eagerly anticipating the possibilities of the two organizations working together. With the backing of Endeavor, the new company would have a strong foothold in both traditional and streaming media, making it a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.