Does MMA Compete with Wrestling?

The Katz Files – Arnie Katz
Does MMA Compete with Pro Wrestling?
The Kingfish Arnie Katz discusses the question of whether MMA is a rival for pro wrestling in the US. The answers may surprise you.

The incredible success of UFC 100, added to the extensive pre-show publicity, has again raised the question: Is MMA a rival to Pro Wrestling.

It’s easy to see how MMA is a direct and powerful competitor to Boxing. Both are combat sports in which athletes compete according to weight classes. I like both, so don’t expect me to say that MMA is replacing Boxing as a major attraction, but UFC has pushed its sport to much greater popularity in the US than pugilism.

MMA’s relationship to Pro Wrestling is less obvious, which is why so many people have made pro or con statements on the topic.

Let’s look at positions on both sides of the question – along with my view on the subject.

Pro = MMA is a serious competitor to Pro Wrestling.
Con = MMA is not a serious competitor for Pro Wrestling.

General Positioning
Pro: MMA and Pro Wrestling are both arena and PPV attractions that deliver a lot of ring/cage/octagon combat action.
Con: MMA is a sport, while WWE is an athletic entertainment.
The Kingfish’s Verdict: It’s comparatively easy for MMA to lure Boxing fans, because they’re both sports. For the same reason, it’s a little harder for Boxing and MMA to slide over to Pro Wrestling, because some have trouble getting past the fact that Pro Wrestling is scripted and choreographed. On the other hand, Pro Wrestling fans have little trouble translating their interest in fictional combat to real combat, whether it’s Boxing or MMA. Viewed in that light, MMA is likely to compete for the time and money of some Pro Wrestling fans.

Athletes
Pro: Pro Wrestling and MMA both require highly athletic competitors, so they will be scouting the same prospects. MMA has already lured Brock Lesner and Bobby Lashley.
Con: MMA needs smaller guys than Wrestling, especially WWE, likes to use. The MMA heavyweight Division has an upper limit that keeps some of the really huge wrestlers from crossing over to it.
The Kingfish’s Verdict: WWE and TNA both use some guys in the 160-220 class and ECW employs quite a few of them. Down the road, a lot of guys will have to decide between a mid card or a possible MMA main event stars. Many current wrestlers don’t have the kind of combat skills needed for success in MMA, but kids coming up to a career choice may have the luxury of choosing MMA rather that sports entertainment.

The Audience:
Pro: If MMA can attract David Meltzer, it can obviously pull a lot of other Pro Wrestling fans, too. People only have so much money to spend, so every dime a Wrestling fan spends on MMA pay per views is one dime less that’s going into the WWE and TNA coffers.
Con: Everything competes for limited financial resources, especially in hard economic times, but Pro Wrestling will continue to draw a mass audience as long as it delivers its combination of action and dramatics.
The Kingfish’s Verdict: MMA and Pro Wrestling have different audience demographics, though there is a growing overlap that should concern Vince McMahon and Dixie Carter. In general, Pro Wrestling is strongest among teenagers and MMA’s maximum appeal is to males in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. That’s a prescription for future problems for Pro Wrestling as teens get through school and into the adult world – and join the MMA prime demographic.

The Kingfish’s Final Verdict: Anyone in Pro Wrestler who says that MMA doesn’t offer competition for sports entertainment is either lying or in severe denial.

Pro Wrestling competes with every form of entertainment – and MMA is an authentic version of what Pro Wrestling simulates in the ring. Pro Wrestling will have to do even better with the non-ring elements of its show and include enough sophisticated content to retain the interest of its teen audience as it ages.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back Monday with a fresh installment of the Internet’s fastest-rising pro wrestling column. I hope you’ll join me then and, please, bring your friends.

— Arnie Katz
Executive Editor
[email protected]
(7/13/09)