Having debuted in 1993, the UFC has been around for almost a quarter-century. In that time, the company has proved that many aspects of WWE which were assumed to be unrealistic, would/do actually happen in real combat sports.
Pro-Wrestling is fictional athletic competition. The athleticism involved can’t be debated, but it doesn’t change the fact that the athletes involved aren’t actually competing with each other during a match. You can call it “fake” and you wouldn’t be wrong, but a far more accurate word is “fictional”.
Much of what goes on in the WWE universe requires some suspension of disbelief, but the UFC has proved that some storylines we assumed were fantasy actually would play out in a real version of WWE’s fiction.
Let’s review 5 aspects of WWE that UFC has proven to be based in reality:
5. Promos Get You Title Shots and Main Events
A frequent complaint about WWE from wrestling purists is that a wrestler’s promos matter just as much, if not more than they’re actual matches. But guess what? The exact same thing happens in the UFC.
Let’s take the main event of UFC 196 as an example. Conor McGregor was supposed to challenge Raphael Dos Anjos for the lightweight title, but the champ had to pull out due to injury (costing himself millions of dollars in the process). The UFC needed a last minute replacement for a big money main event, so naturally, they would have brought in the top available guy right? Nope, they went with Nate Diaz, who had lost 3 of his last 5 bouts at the time.
Why Was Nate Chosen to Fight Conor?
Why did they go with Nate Diaz? Because he cut an awesome promo on Conor earlier (see above video) that went viral. Diaz got the main event spot not because he was the best available fighter, but because he’d bring in the most money. He got rich because of his promos, not because of his fighting ability.
As for title shots being handed out due to promos, look no further than Conor McGregor, who was allowed to challenge for the lightweight belt after just having won the featherweight title. The only other champion who had been allowed to challenge for another belt while the champion of a different division is BJ Penn. When Penn challenged GSP for the welterweight title he had already cleared out the 155lbs division, however. To receive the lightweight title shot, Conor jumped over Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
So why was Conor allowed to challenge for a second belt instead of defending the one he just won? Cause he’s worth a lot of money on PPV and cuts amazing promos. The same opportunity for a super-fight between champions has already been denied to Michael Bisping and Tyron Woodley.
Sometimes during the NWO angle, I would think to myself “why would all these guys want to be in Hogan’s stable? Don’t Hall and Nash want to win the world title too?”. Turns out fighters and wrestlers will both turn down championship opportunities as a result of team allegiance.
Anderson Silva has said recently he would not want to take a middleweight title shot away from teammate Jacare Souza. Daniel Cormier moved down from the heavyweight division so he wouldn’t compete against teammate Cain Velasquez. Rumours are that George St. Pierre wasn’t going to return to the UFC’s welterweight division while his teammate Rory MacDonald was a title challenger in it as well.
While nobody in the UFC has done the “Fingerpoke of Doom” just yet, it is clear that stable affiliations sometimes trump personal goals in both wrestling and MMA.
3. The Bad Guys Cheat
Anyone who reads Jim Ross’s blog or listens to his podcast know that he is a big proponent of “bad guys” cheating. This always seemed too simplistic to me. After all, if half the wrestlers are “cheaters” than is it really cheating? The bad guys are just doing what they are supposed to be doing, so how can we hate them for that?
But in the UFC, man do the bad guys ever cheat! While in other sports you seem to have a handful of blatant rule-breakers in the league, in no sport are there more “heels” than in MMA.
PEDs have become the MMA equivalent of using a “foreign object” ( an”international object” for you early-WCW fans). Holding onto a submission for a few moments after the end of a fight like Tito Ortiz and Rousimar Palhares have been known to do is the equivalent of beating a guy up after a match. The list goes on.
Then there is Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero. In MMA, he is the dirtiest player in the game. While Rousimar Palhares is the guy who beats people up after the bell, Romero is the one who will cheat his way to victory.
Even Romero’s manager and run-in buddies have gotten in on the action. In his fight against Tim Kennedy they “accidentally” left his stool in the cage between rounds, buying Romero more time to recover. After that, he knocked out Kennedy in the next round. That is the equivalent of Bobby “the Brain” Heenan getting up on the ring apron, distracting the ref, and allowing Romero to get the roll-up victory while grabbing the trunks.
2. Company Shows Preferential Treatment to “Superstars”
In sports, you have to be the best of the best just to make it to the top league. In MMA however, you can get there so long as you are popular. The only other place that happens is in WWE’s fictionalized version of a sport.
Oddly enough the two guys which prove that point have both performed for the WWE and competed in the UFC. Brock Lesnar competed for the UFC heavyweight championship in just his 4th ever MMA bout. Granted this was at a different time in the sport, but Lesnar’s early title shot is very indicative of how PPV buys, ratings and over all popularity mean more than win/loss records in MMA. He’d had 2 fights in the UFC, and lost 1 of them, and he was given a title shot? Of course, he went on become the new champion, and even defended it successfully (kind of) on one occasion.
Then there is CM Punk. You have to respect the guy for wanting to do it despite his age, and it would be tough for him to turn down the money offered, but all the same, he jumped the line in front of a lot of guys who are better and had been training a lot longer.
Oddly enough, it would be CM Punk who brought up that MMA is actually following the same pattern that pro-wrestling did. It started out as a real sport but eventually became entertainment. Many fans are kind of hoping Punk goes back to the entertainment part, where he is truly an elite performer. Put CM Punk back in Ring of Honor and that company would surge in popularity.
1. Heel GM
Stephanie McMahon is usually a heel, but she can be a babyface when the situation calls for it. Same goes for Dana White. And the similarities don’t end there.
Vince McMahon, Stephanie or Hunter will fire people even if they are top ranked wrestlers. Well, the UFC will do the exact same thing! Lorenz Larkin, Jon Fitch, Misha Cirkunov and other ranked fighters have all been let-go by the company. They might have been good fighters, but if they don’t draw money they don’t please the Heel GM.
Over the years, Dana White has become exactly like every heel GM that has ever been on Raw or Smackdown.
Let’s not even get started on how the heel GM sometimes treats announcers like Jim Ross… Mike Goldberg might notice some similarities there.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but in this case, they are both pretty similar.