UFC and WWE officially completed their merger Tuesday, becoming TKO Group and debuting on the New York Stock Exchange. The move, under the parent company Endeavor, ends the decades-long control of WWE under the McMahon family. The deal was first announced in April. Here’s what you need to know.
- WWE was founded as Capitol Wrestling Corporation in the 1950s by Vincent J. McMahon, later sold to his son, Vincent K. McMahon. WWE changed names a few times and became a public company in 1999.
- Endeavor bought a majority stake in UFC in 2016 and acquired full control in 2021.
- Under this new organization, Endeavor owns 51 percent of TKO, and WWE shareholders own 49 percent.
- Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel will be TKO’s chief executive, with McMahon as executive chairman of the board. Dana White will remain as CEO of UFC.
A historic day. The most exciting time in our industry that I’ve ever been a part of.
— Triple H (@TripleH) September 12, 2023
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
What this means
On screen, don’t expect much to change within these companies. They will continue to operate on their own, though it might not be a surprise to see UFC fighters and WWE wrestlers make appearances at each other’s shows. Off screen, there are expected to be layoffs as the business sides of the companies begin to overlap in certain departments, as is common in mergers.
The merger creates a live sports entertainment powerhouse. WWE airs two weekly live shows, “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as one premium live event in most months. WWE is currently going through media rights negotiations for “Raw” and “SmackDown,” which is expected to grow and bring more revenue to the company. Pro wrestling shows like “Raw” (on USA Network), “SmackDown” (on Fox) and separate company All-Elite Wrestling (on TNT and TBS) are typically among the most-watched programs on television on their given nights. WWE’s streaming deal with NBC/Peacock ends in 2026.
UFC’s deal with ESPN, meanwhile, expires in 2025.
Executives believe there isn’t too much audience overlap between UFC and WWE, as the latter has tried to focus on family content within the context of choreographed fighting, while the real fighting of UFC has a more male-driven and college-aged audience. Endeavor’s global network and experience with events, licensing and more will be used to expand the reach and revenue of the two promotions.
What they’re saying
“This is the culmination of a decades-long partnership between Endeavor and WWE across strategic initiatives including talent representation and media rights,” McMahon said in a release. “Given our collaborative, trusted relationship and Endeavor’s incredible track record of success growing UFC, we believe WWE is optimally positioned for future growth and success as part of TKO.”
McMahon also said the focus remains “delivering for our fans across the globe” and that the merger will take “business to the next level.”
On UFC and WWE, Emanuel said he is confident in the group’s ability to “accelerate their respective growth and unlock long-term sustainable value for shareholders,” adding that “unrivaled experiences for more than a billion passionate fans worldwide” will be the outcome.
(Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)