In the world of combat sports and sports entertainment, two reign supreme, the WWE and the UFC.
Today we’re going to compare these two very different, yet somewhat similar brands and ultimately give you a final verdict on which is the better watch. We’re going to break things down into the general pros and cons of the product, the commentators, the men who run the show, the ways you can watch each, and then wrap it up with our final verdict.
We’ll start the pros and cons off with the UFC:
It’s all real
Every punch, every kick, every submission, and every knockout is 100% real. When you see someone fall flat on their back or when their in agonizing in pain because their arm is being twisted in a direction it isn’t meant to twist, it’s because the pain is really there. Here’s a couple of examples:
Top 20 Knockouts in UFC History
Top 20 Submissions in UFC History
The rivalries are real
When you watch a UFC press conference and see let’s say, Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones going back and forth, talking smack to one another, it’s not because the UFC put together a fabricated story, it’s because those 2 genuinely do not like each other for one reason or another. Sure, that’s not always the case with every single fight, but when it’s there, it creates true natural magic that you rarely see in sports.
There’s one title per weight class, and it means something
In the UFC, the belt always means something. Instead of putting the strap around who they feel is best for it, they let the fighters decide it in the octagon. The man or woman with the belt is truly the absolute best fighter in that division at that time. There’s a certain weight a championship holds when the man or woman who’s holding it truly earned it and the fans know they deserve it.
The Ultimate Fighter
Whether you love or hate TUF, without it, the UFC wouldn’t be where it is today. The Ultimate Fighter has spawned many careers and generated many rivalries over its tenure. The best thing about the show is how personal you can get with the fighters, it’s one of the few times you get to see an inside look on the lives of a mixed martial artists.
There are too many fights and too many fighters
You’d think that more fights would be good right? Well in the case of the UFC, less is more. Over the past few years the UFC has made a strong effort to generate business across all of America and more parts of the world. The good in this? You get to see a lot fight cards, almost one a week, the bad though is that the high majority of these cards are weak, very weak. The main events of a lot of these cards would be opening fights on a pay-per-view, or even the ‘main event’ of the prelims, this isn’t good for a still young company that is trying to reach many parts of the world.
Outside of the UFC wanting to reach out across the world, another big reason for the amount of fights you see is quite simply because there are A LOT of fighters, over 500 of them. The very high majority of these fighters don’t belong in the UFC, but because they’re there, the UFC has to make fights for them. It’s all just one big mess.
The UFC either markets too much, or doesn’t market enough for their fights. Prime example is from a few weeks ago: There was a fight card in Manilla headlines by Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber, two of the greatest fighters there has ever been. Almost nobody knew about it until the day before it happened, not even Fox Sports 1, the channel it aired on, advertised it all that much, it just didn’t make any sense at all.
But if you look back in January in Boston, the brash and outspoken young Conor McGregor was facing old and outdated Dennis Siver, and I swear to you I saw about 15 advertisements alone during NFL broadcasting that Sunday for that fight. Like I said, it doesn’t make sense, but it does bring me in to my next point.
This of course happens in almost all sports organizations, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in the UFC. Too many times will they build up an unworthy competitor for a title shot simply because he talks and makes for good TV. Chael Sonnen and Conor McGregor are the perfect examples of this. Sonnen was just an average middleweight, who had a lot to say about the then Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. All that talking and winning against mediocre opponents gave him not one, but two title shots against the Brazilian, and in the case of Conor McGregor, he’s had one ‘notable’ win since coming in to the UFC and now he’s set to challenge for the featherweight title in July.
Quite simply, the UFC like guys who talk more than guys who perform, and that’s not how it should be. They even criticize CHAMPIONS who aren’t brash and outspoken like the Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson, even though Johnson is arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC.
The issue of UFC fighter pay has become a very constant and public issue. Simply put, they don’t get paid enough for what they do. If you’re curious about their pay, just do a google search because it’s all there to see.
The recent Reebok deal that takes full effect on July 7th has become the most recent issue though. The UFC is now no longer allowing fighters to carry their own sponsorships into the octagon and will be forced to wear a Reebok ‘uniform’. Their pay based off of this is based on tenure which causes even more problems. Again, simply put, the pay their receiving for this is very poor and it is causing a lot of problems in the roster. The UFC needs to pay their fighters more and work out a better way to do sponsorship for them, because it’s really bad right now.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the WWE now:
When WWE Creative is on, they’re on
The benefit of wrestling being fake is that it allows a whole team of writers, WWE Creative, to come up with storylines for their superstars, some do fall flat, but man when they hit, they hit hard. Perfect case is one that’s ongoing right now, the feud between United States Champion John Cena and NXT Champion Kevin Owens. They had a perfect build up to the latest ‘pay-per-view’ Elimination Chamber and the match absolutely delivered. They followed that up with an incredible in-ring promo that really hit home with a lot of people. They’re a perfect example of the creative team getting it exactly right and it makes for some extremely good entertainment.
The move sets are awesome
Sure, real punches and real kicks are awesome, but one man throw another man up in the air and slamming him to the ground is just as equally awesome. Even their punches and kicks aren’t just standard punches and kicks, ever heard of Sweet Chin Music? The point is, the innovation in the move sets over the years and the way the superstars can sell them is something that’s just straight up cool to watch. Here’s a couple of examples:
Brock Lesnar’s F5
Or even something from a newer face, Kalisto’s Salida del Sol
NXT is WWE’s developmental system based out of Full Sail University in Florida, and it is arguably the best thing on WWE programming right now. I know it’s weird to say that a developmental system is better than the pros, like saying the D-League or the AHL is better than the NBA or NHL, but it really is, ask any wrestling fan around. It was created back in 2012 and over the past year it has really taken off as premier programming. It has spawned the main roster careers of Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, and the newly promoted NXT Champion, Kevin Owens just to name a few, and with the likes of Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Tyler Breeze, and Sami Zayn still down there, the future of the WWE is very capable hands.
Wrestlemania is the once a year spectacle that the WWE puts on, it’s the ‘Super Bowl’ of wrestling, and it’s truly spectacular. It’s the one night of the year WWE goes all out with their sets, their entrances, and especially their matches. Having something like Wrestlemania that the WWE can work towards every year keeps you tuned in year round, and where a normal arena show garners between 15,000-20,000 people, Wrestlemania garners anywhere between 50,000-80,000 people. Next year it’s expected that Wrestlemania in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium will have over 100,000 people in attendance, stuff like that makes Wrestlemania an entirely different experience and adds to the value that is the WWE.
Creative frequently drops the ball
As I mentioned before, when WWE Creative gets it right, they really get it right, but all too often do they get it way wrong. Too many times will they create a feud or a storyline that just completely makes no sense, and sometimes ruins careers before they get started, see The Ascension, Bo Dallas, and Adam Rose. A prime recent example of this is while they were getting it totally right with Kevin Owens and John Cena, they have completely got it wrong with Ryback winning the Intercontinental Championship and having the old Big Show be his new rival, it makes 0 sense.
The main roster Divas
One thing I did not mention with NXT is that their Diva’s division is absolutely incredible, but if you take a look at the Diva’s division on the main roster? It’s awful. Half of this is because of the Diva’s themselves, some of them aren’t just that good in the ring, the other half is WWE Creative not giving them good storylines and proper in-ring time to showcase their skills. It’s seriously hurt the Diva’s division, and every match of there’s is almost like a break from all the other action. It’s disappointing.
Too much of the same
Too many times do we have a weak opening promo on Monday Night RAW, too many times is the main event a tag team match between multiple rivals, and too many times do we see the same people have the same matches with the same outcome. The WWE has over 60 superstars on their main roster between the men and the women, yet all we see are the same exact people every week doing the same exact thing. If only they would expand their roster again and split Smackdown and RAW into two separate rosters again, that’d be something.
Creative is hard-headed
I mention WWE Creative a lot because that is where a lot of the higher-ups are, like the showrunner Vince McMahon, he’s the head of Creative for the main roster, and man are they hard-headed. They’re entire goal essentially is to please the fans they currently have, and to bring new ones in, yet they almost refuse to listen to the fans they have. Prime example here: In 2013/2014 ‘season’ Daniel Bryan was the king of the WWE, yet when the Royal Rumble came around, WWE Creative decided to leave him out of the Rumble itself and not give him that chance at a WWE Title shot. It took all the way up to just 2 or 3 weeks before Wrestlemania for the Creative team to finally make a way for Daniel Bryan to get into the main event of Wrestlemania and win it all. There are more examples of this, but that one stick out like a sore thumb, if your fan base LOVES this guy, if they’re buying all his merchandise and constantly chanting YES at any opportunity, shouldn’t he be a shoo-in for all the big things in WWE? We as fans shouldn’t have to force WWE’s hand.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the pros and cons of the product we’re seeing, let’s compare the main commentating teams they both have to offer. For the UFC that’ll be Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan, and for the WWE it will be Michael Cole, JBL, and Booker T. We’ll also throw Jerry Lawler into this because he does do all the pay-per-view events alongside Cole and JBL.
Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan
We’re going with Goldberg and Rogan simply because they’re the duo you always see, if you turn on a Fight Pass fight or a Fox Sports 1 card you might hear Jon Anik with Kenny Florian or Brian Stann, but to keep it simple we’re going with this duo.
The benefit of this duo here is that on one side you have Mike Goldberg, who, while not so good in the NFL, is a great play-by-play guy for the UFC. He knows his stuff and is always amped up and excited which really helps draw you into the fight. With Rogan you get a very knowledgeable guy actually does train in many forms of mixed martial arts, you pair up Goldberg’s solid play-by-play with Rogan’s first hand knowledge of the sport, and you get commentating gold from these two. On top of that, it’s really nice to have two guys who call it like they see it, if a ref makes a mistake, if the judges make a bad call, they’re the first ones to call it out.
The downside to them though, is that they can very easily overhype certain fighters, or make you feel as if they’re favoring one fighter over the other. For example let’s say a fighter throws a nice right hook and knocks his opponent out cold, instead of just seeing it as a great strike, Rogan specifically, might tell the audience it was a lucky punch, and really sell it as a lucky punch. It can get very annoying as a fan, and at times can make you think that they have no idea what they’re talking about.
JBL, Michael Cole, and Booker T
On the side of WWE, you get the trio of JBL, Michael Cole, and Booker T, with Jerry Lawler on Smackdown and pay-per-view events instead of Booker T.
The benefit of these 3 or 4 guys is that you’ll have two former in-ring competitors in the form of either JBL/Booker T or JBL/Jerry Lawler alongside a solid play-by-play guy in Michael Cole. Cole really sells you on the match and the events that are going on and sells up the current storyline. With JBL, Booker T, and Jerry Lawler you have 3 guys who have been in the ring day in and day out doing exactly what today’s superstars are doing right now. So while Cole will tell you exactly what’s happening, those 3 will sell you on the type of move that just happened to help you better understand maybe just how painful it was.
The biggest downside to these guys quite simply is that they aren’t the duo of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. But if we look at what we have, Cole isn’t really the problem here. It’s more so Booker T and especially JBL. Booker T at times just won’t say much and you might forget he’s even there, but when he does talk it just feels like he doesn’t belong behind the commentating desk. It’s nothing against him, it just doesn’t really work. JBL on the other hand just goes way over the top with his commentating and it feels out-of-place at times. He’s very loud and very brash and kind of stupid at times. It’s like, yes, El Torito is dressed up and playing the character of a bull, but I don’t need him to yell that at me every time he steps into the ring.
Outside of those two, Jerry Lawler is great. To me, he reminds me of the better days of the WWE, and I love it.
Now we get to talk about the big dogs here. With the UFC there’s 3 guys, Lorenzo Ferttita, Frank Ferttita, and Dana White, but we’re only going to talk about White here because the Fertitta brothers are more of the money guys while White is the face of it all. With the WWE it’s none other than Vince McMahon himself, we’ll start with White.
In 2001 Dana White alongside his 2 business partners, Lorenzo and Frank Ferttita purchased the UFC under the brand Zuffa, White was named President of the company and is the business face of the UFC.
The good of Dana White is mostly his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts and the UFC. He truly loves the sport and has been a big factor in its ever-growing popularity. Like Goldberg and Rogan, he’s one of the first people to call out judges, referees, and even his own fighters when it needs to be done, and that’s a refreshing thing to have in a world where Gary Bettman and Roger Goodell run the NHL and NFL.
With the good though, there is some bad to him though. He’s extremely contradicting. One minute he’s talking about how he’s so against marijuana and other illegal drugs in the UFC, but then he’ll back Jon Jones when he tests positive for cocaine. See for yourself:
On top of that, he’s at the forefront of fighter pay. He’s one of the UFC’s big decision makers and one of the reasons that fighter pay is such a giant issue in the sport, and he’s also the guy who headed the whole Reebok deal that is screwing over his fighters. He’s also the guy at the front of the problems with the fighter favoritism that I mentioned before. Parading around with guys like Conor McGregor does not help make you look like a fair Mr. White.
All in all with Dana White though, he’s a great promoter and his love for the UFC shines through, but there’s a lot of things that he does that don’t help his image.
Vince McMahon has been in the wrestling business for a very, very long time. Starting out as a simple promoter, to commentator, then to in-ring competitor and CEO. Wrestling in general wouldn’t be where it is today without him.
The good with McMahon is how true he’s been to sports entertainment and the WWE itself. As I stated, he started out as a promoter then working his way into commentator, and ultimately to the CEO of the company. For a long while as well he was a fixture in the ring as the character Mr. McMahon and it was straight gold. He’s had many legendary feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and even the two together as DX. He seemingly taken the whole ‘do it yourself’ thing to a whole other level, and it’s great to see from someone of his stature.
The bad with McMahon though isn’t necessarily in ethics like it is with Dana White, but more so in his role with the WWE currently. He’s still the CEO of the company, but he’s also the head of the creative team. Nothing goes out to the ring without his go ahead and while it can work out really well, it can be absolutely terrible. The things I mentioned about Daniel Bryan earlier are a direct correlation of the decision-making of Vince McMahon, and that’s a shame. More recently dating back to Wrestlemania in late March was his determined push for Roman Reigns who quite frankly wasn’t ready for the spotlight like he thought he was, and the fans let him know it with the never-ending boos for Roman Reigns every time he entered the ring, and even when he won the 2015 Royal Rumble. If Vince just listened to the WWE Universe more, the product he puts out on television would be vastly greater. Unlike the UFC, Vince has the ability to survey his fan base and make storyline decisions based on that and he simply just doesn’t do it.
Our last comparison is the category of televised programming. What these companies put out, where it’s viewed, and the overall broadcast. We’re going to start again with the UFC.
For the UFC, if you want to watch a big event, it’s going to be on pay-per-view and strictly there or for purchase on UFC.tv. You’re going to hash out $50-$60 for it whether you like it or not. Outside of the PPV realm, you have their fights that are on Fox Sports 1 and their still new and underwhelming UFC Fight Pass. For the PPV events you can watch the earliest of prelims on Fight Pass, and then the main prelim fights on Fox Sports 1. Fox Sports 1 will also host the fight cards that are usually U.S. based while Fight Pass is where you can watch the majority of their overseas fights like the upcoming women’s strawweight title fight that will be taking place in Berlin.
I have no issues with pay-per-view or Fox Sports 1, my issue is with UFC Fight Pass. It’s all-in-all a waste of money. What you’re given for your $9.99 subscription fee is a backlog of fights like the early days of the UFC when there were no rules, old pay-per-views, and there’s also exclusive content like TUF Brazil or various series based around a fighter. There is no discount on pay-per-views or anything really intriguing which is a huge disappointment. You’re stuck with old fights and the lowest level of upcoming fights and that’s just bad.
Outside of the events themselves there is also The Ultimate Fighter which airs on Wednesdays on Fox Sports 1. The show is there to primarily give fighters an opportunity to make it into the UFC and also give you an inside look at the lives of fighters.
With the WWE, for their events it’s either pay-per-view or the WWE Network. If you’re living in the U.S. and still buying them on PPV, then I have to ask, why? The WWE Network has loads of content on it, for $9.99 you get access to every pay-per-view there’s ever been WWE, WCW, and ECW, as well as all the wrestlemanias, you get original programming from them that’s not completely terrible, and the best of all is that you get all the upcoming pay-per-views live as they happen. Seriously, that alone is worth $10 compared to the ridiculous PPV prices. The Network might be overshooting with how their making money off of it, but for as it is right now for the consumer, it’s fantastic. Not to mention that the WWE Network is the only place you can watch NXT, so there’s that.
Outside of the WWE Network and it’s content. You also get weekly broadcasts of Monday Night RAW on the USA Network and Thursday Night Smackdown on SyFy. RAW is the premier program for the WWE, it’s what progresses the storylines from one event to the next, and Smackdown is just kind of there for more televised wrestling.
We’ve reached the end of this long ride comparing the UFC and the WWE, they’re both great watches, and I highly recommend just being a fan of both like myself, because they both truly are fun and entertaining, but there has to be a winner here. If I put my personal bias aside here and just look at the facts and quality of product, I myself would have to side with the WWE.
Like an RKO, that came out of no where.
I know that I fall into the minority here, but let me state that I am a passionate fan of both, and honestly more so the UFC than I am the WWE. But the fact of the matter is, yes, I’d rather watch fake, scripted fights, than real ones and here’s why.
The drama that is added into professional wrestling within the storylines and matches themselves is unparalleled anywhere. On top of that you have all the crazy characters and innovative moves that literally makes your jaw drop and go, “HOLY S***!” When you bake that into the weekly Monday Night RAW and the access to special events via the WWE Network for just $9.99, it’s hard for me to say that the UFC has a better product. You can only take the realness so far in my mind.
So what do you guys think? Which do you find better, the UFC or the WWE? Let me know in the comments below.
Special thanks to Daniel Soden for helping me with his thoughts on both sides of this matter. Follow him on Twitter @danielsoden.
h/t: WWE.com, UFC.com
Brock Hebner is a writer for NoCoastBias.com. He covers the UFC mostly, but has an added interest in the WWE, NHL, NFL, MLB, Premier League Soccer, and College Football. You can follow Brock on Twitter @brocktavious and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions, comments, or feedback.