Vince wanted to fight me—swear to God. He called me up, said, 'Let's do it. We can do it in the UFC, or let's do it at WrestleMania.' And I said, 'You are crazy.'
The dynamic of the challenge makes sense given the time period. Three years ago, the UFC was on fire. The mixed martial arts promotion always saw crossover from pro wrestling fans, but in 2010 it was seriously threatening WWE's pay-per-view audience.
More specifically, its WrestleMania audience.
A trend of the UFC holding pay-per-views in close proximity to WWE pay-per-views led to sinking buyrates for the WWE. The fighting conglomerate was punching holes into the WWE's business.
WrestleMania XXVI—which featured the return of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels' final WWE match and a star-studded Batista-Cena co-main event—drew a shockingly low buyrate, down 12 percent from 2009. The grand pay-per-view occurred just one night after UFC 111, when UFC mega star Georges St. Pierre fought mouthy baddy Dan Hardy.
The trend continued months later with UFC 117. That pay-per-view featured a highly anticipated showdown between pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva and ready-made heel Chael Sonnen. Fueled by months of bravado and public taunting by Sonnen, the bout had more intriguing storylines than the ones the pre-determined by the WWE.
Buyrates for another marquee pay-per-view held one week later, SummerSlam, disappointed.
Prior to UFC 117, UFC 116 was headlined by Brock Lesnar, a former WWE champion. By then, Lesnar was UFC Heavyweight Champion and a bona fide star in the fight game due to the built-in controversy that came with his pro wrestling background. The pay-per-view drew over one million buys. Talk about crossover.
Of course Vince McMahon wanted to fight Dana White just one year later at WrestleMania XXVII.
The UFC's sharks appeared to be circling WWE's pay-per-view waters. Dana White was borrowing Vince McMahon's philosophies and superstar wrestlers, all while taking his audience.
It was a ticked off workaholic who felt threatened. Vince McMahon was cautiously waving the white flag the only way he knew how.
By swinging for the fences.
In 2010, the UFC was beating the WWE at its own game. So Vince tried joining it. It was going to be a joint promotion of outspoken egomaniacs. It would draw the biggest crossover audience in sports and entertainment history.
But when Dana apparently declined, somehow WWE's bleeding stopped.
McMahon's aforementioned desperation also led to the WWE ditching its youth movement, opting to promote part-time superstars with good track records on pay-per-views.
This led to the return of The Rock in 2011. Although he served only as a non-wrestling host, the return worked. An otherwise ho-hum WrestleMania XXVII drew over one-million buys for the first time in three years. The Rock returned to the ring the following year at WrestleMania XXVIII.
That pay-per-view drew the highest WWE buyrate ever.
After making his money in the UFC, Brock Lesnar followed suit. He returned to the ring at the following pay-per-view, Extreme Rules, in a shoot-style match against John Cena. Cena and Lesnar each bled in a pseudo-MMA match, both of which (blood and shoot-fighting) have been rare in the WWE's PG era.
Now it was McMahon who was taking a page out of Dana White's book by borrowing his philosophies and borrowing back former box-office juggernauts.
Extreme Rules, like WrestleMania XXVIII, outperformed prior-year buyrates.
Coming off its most successful WrestleMania ever, the WWE is now set to hold the first WrestleMania in nearly a decade to feature big-time draws The Rock, John Cena and Brock Lesnar on the same show.
Meanwhile, the UFC has struggled with injuries, departures and PR fiascoes since catching fire in 2010.
In 2012, the UFC's current it guy, Jon "Bones" Jones, declined a fight against Chael Sonnen. The fight had been offered on short notice following an injury to Jones' would-be opponent Dan Henderson. This led to the UFC cancelling its first fight under Dana White's watch. The backlash on Twitter pretty much turned the it guy heel.
In 2011, Vince McMahon was swinging for the fences at Dana White. Dana ducked, yet McMahon still managed to hit a home run.
White further addressed McMahon's challenge by calling the fitness nut and bodybuilder "too old":
If Vince hears this he's going to go nuts, okay? Vince is too old. He's too old, which he won't think he is, and he'll go crazy.
Dana White called Vince McMahon "old," knowing that McMahon would "go crazy" upon hearing it. Those sound like fighting words. Almost like a challenge.
Surely Dana White isn't threatened by Vince McMahon now. Is he?
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