Mark Shapiro Says Endeavor Won't 'Over-Commercialize' WWE, Talks Merger Benefits

Arguably the biggest story in combat sports is the planned merger of WWE and UFC into TKO Group. It remains to be seen exactly what kind of effects it'll have on both companies, but on Wednesday, the public got a more detailed look at Endeavor's plans via Mark Shapiro, president and COO of UFC parent company Endeavor, giving an interview to the "Sports Media with Richard Deitsch" podcast. One key benefit of the merger, according to Shapiro, is that there are elements of UFC's "playbook" that can easily be ported to WWE.

"When we acquired the UFC years ago ... the playbook was [that] we were going to, through IMG Media — who represents and distributes 150 sports properties into 160 countries every single year ... they're the largest distributor of sports programming in the world — they're going to be able to get WWE — or UFC when we did this — into more territories, into more countries, and ultimately, if they pull an audience, higher rights fees," he explained. Per Shapiro, that "playbook" also includes licensing, global partnerships, social media, merchandise and consumer products, securing site fees from local governments, and shoulder events around fight cards.

"That playbook is something that we authored, we've gotten used to, we execute on a daily basis, we train our employees to run those traps, and we incentivize them when they score," he added. "And every single area of business I just mentioned has grown exponentially with the UFC, and we felt like 'hell, there's a lot of synergies here." As a follow-up, Deitsch asked if WWE programming could become plastered in sponsorships a la UFC shows, and Shapiro's answer can best be characterized as "not exactly." "Look, you want to be authentic," Shapiro added. "You want to be seamless. You want to be organic. You want to be true to your audience. So no, we're not gonna put a brand on somebody's robe walking into the ring." He does see opportunities for WWE to have UFC-style apparel and/or shoe deals, "but we're not gonna over-commercialize it; we're not gonna saturate it to the point we cheap it out."