Coming off a weekend when both the UFC and World Wrestling Entertainment held major pay-per-view events, the pro wrestling juggernaut on its flagship 'Monday Night Raw' show took a direct shot at what it publicly claims is not its competitor.
During the show, it put a graphic on the screen claiming that 'Smackdown', the company's Friday night show on the Syfy network, had more than 10 times the amount of social media reaction on Nov. 16 as The Ultimate Fighter, which aired later the same night on FX.
The WWE regularly puts graphics on its broadcasts talking about beating other sports properties like the NBA and Major League Baseball in television ratings, social media engagement or web site hits. UFC is often mentioned within a grouping, but rarely does something on the graphic come across as a direct putdown in these "Did You Know" bumpers that play on WWE's shows on Monday and Friday.
Both companies, for obvious reasons, will publicly state they are not competitors. For UFC, a company looking for credibility with the public as a major sport, it makes no sense for any comparisons to be made with pro wrestling which does far stronger television ratings. For WWE, it is the dominant force in its world, but when doing talks about business with media and other corporations its executives for the past seven years have been constantly asked questions about the UFC.
In addition, it serves the company no purpose when claiming to be the leader in its field to have to answer questions about UFC's consistently larger pay-per-view numbers.
Exactly how much competition both are for each other is a heavily debated topic. On weekends, WWE pay-per-view events have usually been down when they come the day after a major UFC event, particularly in North America. The most notable example was the 2010 WrestleMania, which was down significantly from the years before and years since, coming the day after the Georges St-Pierre vs. Dan Hardy fight. That WrestleMania event did the weakest numbers in North America since 2003. When UFC was in its growth phase, peaking on pay-per-view in 2010, WWE numbers were declining each year. The past two years, when UFC's numbers declined, the WWE numbers increased. How much of that is causation and how much is coincidence can be debated, but there probably is a little of both.
But if it's not a major UFC event, such as a Friday night live show on FX that goes against Smackdown, there is no real change in the audience for each show.
Both WWE and UFC are strong draws in males 18-49 and UFC's original fan base in 2005 came from WWE. When it comes to television, WWE draws far stronger with children and with those over the age of 40, with its flagship shows always being among the highest rated shows on cable on their respective nights. It is a completely different product, but there is crossover appeal. When both are charging $44.95 to $54.95 for events on the same weekend, it would cause crossover fans to think about picking and choosing.