Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg: Will they really fight in the cage?

The boys fight.

By “boys” we mean, of course, tech billionaires Elon Musk, who owns Tesla, SpaceX and, more recently, Twitter, as well as Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Meta (formerly Facebook), who also owns Instagram and WhatsApp.

They are 51 and 39 respectively – and we regret to inform you that they are preparing for a cage fight at an unconfirmed location (but possibly in Las Vegas?) on a date to be determined. Elon Musk signaled his interest in the game on Twitter a few days ago; Zuckerberg, naturally, confirmed he was via Instagram.

Whether that match is even going to happen is questionable, despite the back-and-forth social media exchanges between Musk and Zuckerberg, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White’s assertion that “Both guys are absolutely serious.” It would be a great spectacle of an MMA fight, but to some extent Zuckerberg and Musk have already benefited from the publicity by simply talking about the fight.

This split call for attention could be a way to distract from the news they might want to bury: Just before the cage wrestling announcement, Meta announced that he would be cutting off access to the news on Facebook and Instagram in Canada following the passing of a law that requires these tech companies to pay national media when they link to their content. Meanwhile, Musk’s reputation took a dive last year – Morning Consult data from late 2022 indicated his net preference dropped 13 points among American adults, and even Tesla’s reputation was tarnished by his behavior.

But entertaining a fight like this also seems to be a reflection of Musk and Zuckerberg’s sheer vanity. The younger generation of MMA fans in particular are “ready to fanboy for the billionaires,” said Nate Wilcox, the owner of Bloody Elbow, a news site that covers MMA and other combat sports. Musk has done stunts like this before to get media attention, like smoking weed on Joe Rogan’s show or naming his dog CEO of Twitter. And Zuckerberg is the kind of guy who cuts his hair to look like Augustus Caesar.

“I think narcissism can’t be underestimated,” Wilcox said.

How much meat is in this beef?

This whole idea may sound like an ominous fever dream, but it’s actually real — and the showdown between Musk and Zuckerberg has some history. What set the stage for their “beef” was a SpaceX rocket carrying a satellite owned by Facebook in 2016. The launch failed and the satellite – which the company now known as Meta had planned to use to provide a Internet service in parts of Africa – was destroyed.

Things have arguably been a bit chilly since then. Musk has publicly stated that social media apps like Instagram have a negative impact on mental health. Over the past few months, Musk said one of his goals with Twitter was to maximize “unregretted user time” — perhaps a hit on Meta.

Zuckerberg, for his part, hasn’t tweeted in over a decade. In the aftermath of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which oodles of Facebook user data was misused by a private data company linked to the Trump campaign, Musk took down the Facebook pages of Tesla and SpaceX. .

But while the pair aren’t exactly friends, the promised fight between Musk and Zuckerberg is actually about competition from two similar ventures, which intensified after Musk entered the social media arena last year. by (reluctantly) buying Twitter. Since then, Twitter’s waning stability, its schemes to make users pay for features like blue identity verification checkmarks, and increasingly visible right-wing vitriol and hate speech (just this week, Musk said “cisgender” a slur on Twitter) have been the subject of relentless complaints and mockery.

In March, tech newsletter Platformer reported that Meta was working on a Twitter-like text-based social media application. A senior Meta executive boasted that their version would be “healthily handled”, nodding to the countless reports of Musk’s seemingly brash decisions since taking over Twitter. Musk referenced that comment in the lead up to the cage fight suggestion, tweeting, “I’m sure Earth can’t wait to be exclusively under Zuck’s thumb with no other options.”

Admittedly, Meta is the biggest company, with a market capitalization of nearly $747 billion and 3.8 billion monthly active users across all of its apps. By contrast, Twitter’s market capitalization (before Musk took it private) was around $41 billion and had around 368 million monthly active users in 2022. against tyrannical monarchs.

Who would win in a fight between Musk and Zuckerberg?

It’s hard to predict whether Musk or Zuckerberg would emerge victorious.

“Anytime you have non-amateur athletes trying to get into combat sports, it’s always a roll of the dice,” Wilcox said. “You don’t really know what to expect since you’ve never seen these people fight competitively before.”

In Zuckerberg’s case, the closest he’s come is the lowest level of amateur competition in jiu-jitsu, in which he earned a white belt – the top five rank in expertise. That could give him a slight advantage over Musk, who apparently has never done anything like this. Zuckerberg is also 12 years younger, suggesting he could be more nimble. This caused some people in the MMA world to bet on him.

But Musk (despite losing weight recently, apparently due to his Ozempic prescription) is bigger, and that can be a big advantage in MMA. The owner of Twitter himself admitted: “I have this awesome move I call ‘The Walrus,’ where I lay on top of my opponent and do nothing,” he tweeted. Musk weighs around 187 pounds and Zuckerberg less than 154 pounds.

Still, putting money on either is a risky proposition. And while neither likely has the ability to knock out the other, it could still be an ugly fight, reminiscent of some celebrity boxing matches in the early 2000s, like the particularly brutal beating that 70s sitcom star Ron Palillo has received saved by the bellis Dustin Diamond. Wilcox likened this battle to “the story of when the Romans put elephants in gladiatorial cages with lions, and the elephants put on such a sad sight as they were mauled to death that the Roman Colosseum crowded actually had his stomach turned upside down.”

If Musk and Zuckerberg face off under the UFC, it would have to be regulated, which would likely include safety requirements such as headgear that would put an upper limit on how dangerous it is.

“The only fight outcome I can really promise you is that both men are going to embarrass each other and if one of them has a distinct physical advantage over the other it won’t be nice to watch unless you didn’t like watching the shots,” Wilcox said.

Why would two billionaires known for their intellectual property raise their fists, anyway?

We’re all caught up in the hamster wheel of the attention economy, and the owners of two popular social media platforms know it. Tech billionaires have been treated like modern-day gods for decades; their net worth is determined not only by the technologies they claim to be “disrupting,” but also by how cool, savvy, and awesome their audience perceives them to be.

Take, for example, the legions of Elon Musk loyalists, who seem to accept everything he tweets as gospel to live by. Long before the Twitter acquisition debacle, Musk had already achieved a cult of personality similar to the fervent fascination that surrounded Apple founder Steve Jobs. (Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson is also working on an account of Musk’s life so far.) Over the years, Musk has also made it clear that he wants to be seen as a shitposter, an occasional Internet troll who don’t take any of that. too seriously, and a cool guy who’s definitely not mad at someone who insults him (as evidenced by his overuse of the crying laughing emoji).

By contrast, Zuckerberg never enjoyed a big surge in popularity, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018. The Morning Consult study showing Musk’s downfall also showed that Zuckerberg had the lowest public favor among Studied CEOs. Audiences often received it as somewhat clumsy and difficult to understand; he has been the target of several memes. Unlike Musk, he’s not used to blurting out everything his prefrontal lobe tells him. Zuckerberg’s more buttoned-up personality likely saved him from further controversy, but it also means there simply aren’t Zuckerberg fanboys like there are Musk fanboys.

Tech companies often reach dizzying heights – just look at what’s happened with AI in the past six months, and how many people now know ChatGPT creator Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI – but they can drop just as quickly. The world witnessed such a fall from grace last year when cherished crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested for fraud in the Bahamas. Or Elizabeth Holmes, who just started serving an 11-year prison sentence.

The thing is, Silicon Valley stars go up and down at the speed of light, and a lot of that depends on the hype, which in turn can be boosted or dampened by sympathy — or, at least, entertainment. — from an up-and-coming startup founder. In retrospect, it may seem unbelievable that anyone ever believed Holmes’ nonsense, or that anyone looked into Bankman-Fried and FTX earlier. But when the people spouting such massive and costly lies are powerful, influential celebrities with large audiences, and the media industry is willing to amplify their words, is it really any wonder that fraudsters are treated not just with credulity, but also with adulation, raking in billions as a result?

Influence, in other words, is a huge asset, especially for CEOs and founders who jostle in the mercurial waters of the tech industry. Musk and Zuckerberg know this. When attention is drawn to them and they go viral, it usually makes them richer and more influential. Dangling an absurd match in a cage, they ask: “Doesn’t that amuse you?

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