The UFC has been the fastest growing organisation in professional sports since 2005 after it was purchased for $2 million dollars by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. In 2015 the UFC was sold for an astounding $4 billion dollars as the fight promotion also reached $600 million dollars in revenue.
The WWE has been around for over three decades and they're a permanent niche in the United States as well as a global juggernaut which generates near $700 million dollars in revenue.
These revenue numbers leave fans of both professional wrestling and mixed martial arts in constant debate about which sport is more popular because of the many similarities of both sports (Yes, professional wrestling is a sport) and the crossovers we have seen over the years involving both sports. Let's take a look at the popularity of both organisations.
Over the years the WWE has produced hundreds of on-screen characters and stars with many of them becoming household names around the globe since the company first began.
Hulk Hogan and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson became huge Hollywood level stars and helped propel the WWE into the wrestling juggernaut that it is today.
The UFC hasn't really ever had that same star power or the longevity to compete with the head start the WWE has in the mainstream or their niche.
It wasn't until just recently that Quinton Jackson, Randy Couture, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor made themselves household names.
Global reach appeal
The WWE is available in 180 countries around the world and in 20 different languages. The UFC has just recently reached those same countries with their introduction of Fight Pass, which is a streaming service much like the WWE Network.
The difference in appeal, however, is what sets the WWE apart. The diversity of their programming from different match types to women with sex appeal and just the presentation of the show overall has far more appeal for different types of fans in comparison to the UFC, which is completely one dimensional in their programming.
There is nothing more exciting than a big time fight -- except, a big time fight with drama attached to it, and that is exactly what the WWE delivers on a weekly basis by investing in their talents to make the fans more invested in them.
Professional wrestling fans are some of the most passionate fans in all of sports, and that is because they are personally invested in the story being told with the characters they have grown to care about.
In the UFC, the feel of a big time fight is absolutely electric and fans will always be drawn to any huge fight in combat sports.
The issue here is that the UFC's biggest stars aren't brought to the forefront in the same way that the WWE uses their talent to promote their brand. And apart from the one or two mega fights per year there is not much variety to cause casual viewers to tune in to fighters they have never heard of.
While both the WWE and UFC are the largest promotions in their respective circles, the two are very different in the delivery of their product to their consumers. As an entertainment company, the WWE will attract all types of viewers and fans for as long as they are around, because there is something for everyone, every time you tune in.
The UFC gives fans the most talented MMA fighters on the planet and a vast roster of tremendous fighters. But given the physicality and brutality of what fighting is, fans get to see the best fighters a handful times a year and that will always keep the UFC behind the WWE in terms of long-term popularity.
Clearly the WWE can rarely beat the UFC on pay-per-view, and the WWE also can't charge ticket prices anywhere near what the UFC can, apart from their annual WrestleMania pay-per-view. On the other end, the UFC can rarely beat the WWE when it comes to television ratings and it is the differences in identity that is the reason for that.
The WWE is always viewed as "fake" because of their predetermined outcomes, but that is a part of the show because it is theatre at the end of the day. UFC has a negative stigma attached to it that it is still in the process of shaking.
The cruelty and violent nature of an MMA fight is a huge turn off for many people and that will always keep a permanent gap between the two fan bases.
Despite the amazing surge the UFC has made since 2005, their rise in popularity cannot be compared to what WWE's popularity is, and it is like comparing apples to oranges as they are two different worlds.
Professional wrestling has been and always will be more mainstream and socially accepted than MMA, hence there will always be a gap in popularity simply because of this factor alone. But the appeal of real combat will always be a draw in its own right.