The two billionaires kept talking about a possible MMA match, before the boss of Meta calmed things down.
Two of tech’s biggest billionaires facing off barehanded in front of an overexcited audience, all broadcast live on the Internet. The far-fetched scenario of an MMA (mixed martial arts) fight between Mark Zuckerberg, boss of the Meta group, and Elon Musk, owner of X (ex-Twitter), has kept Internet users on the edge of their seats since the end of June. Today, it seems to be definitively buried.
Last Sunday, Mark Zuckerberg calmed things down and urged Internet users not to take his rival’s stories about the fight too seriously. “It’s time to move on”, wrote the CEO. This message marks the end of several weeks of unusual exchanges between the two bosses. The latter will have contributed to their publicity, even if it means forgetting the difficulties encountered by their respective social networks.
June 20: “I’m ready for a cage match”.
It all began at the end of June, when long-time rivals Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg challenged each other on social networks. At the climax of the exchange, the Tesla boss posted the following message on his Twitter account: “I’m ready for a cage fight”, in reference to the cage in which MMA (mixed martial arts) clashes take place. Mark Zuckerberg replied on Instagram: “Send me the address”. “Vegas Octagon” is Elon Musk’s response, referring to the famous venue of the UFC, the leading organization of MMA competitions in the United States.
Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg responds to Elon Musk’s provocative suggestion of a cage fight on Instagram with a simple: “send me the location”. Instagram screenshot
That’s all it took to trigger a myriad of reactions on social networks. The “fight of the century” between the two tech moguls becomes a topic of conversation like any other: “Where will this one take place?”, “When?”, “How?”, “Is it really serious?”. The articles and tweets follow one another, and everyone gives their opinion on which of the two billionaires is most likely to win the fight. Mark Zuckerberg is the favorite: the Meta boss is a martial arts enthusiast, and takes part in jiu-jitsu competitions, regularly posting videos on his own social networks.
For his part, Elon Musk prides himself on never taking part in sport, but the man has long had a flair for buzz. To fuel the rumor mill, he proposes that the event take place at the Colosseum in Italy, and claims to have begun training, posting every detail on his networks. In France, the Nîmes tourist office proposed its own arena for the fight, in a tweet published on July 1.
In the background, the clash between X and Threads
The backdrop to this high-profile exchange is competition in the social networking market. Ever since Elon Musk bought the social network Twitter in October 2022 for $44 billion, the Meta group has made no secret of its intention to take advantage of the platform’s difficulties to launch its own alternative.
Called Threads, this competing application was finally deployed in some forty countries on July 5, reaching a record 100 million active users in less than a week. This successful launch provoked fresh verbal attacks between the two bosses. In particular, Elon Musk accused his competitor of deliberately recruiting several of his former employees and stealing his trade secrets to develop Threads. However, Zuckerberg’s rival platform soon saw its number of daily visitors plummet.
August 6: the first doubts surface
On August 6, Elon Musk communicates again about the battle. “The first episode will be broadcast on X”, assures the billionaire in a message posted on the social network, specifying that “all proceeds will be donated to organizations helping veterans”.
A way, it seems, of deflecting attention from the criticism raining down on the new changes to the social network. Shortly before, the billionaire renamed the platform “X”, with the aim of definitively turning the page on the Twitter brand. At the same time, the platform was stripped of numerous services to convince users to subscribe to the Blue pay service, billed at just under $10 a month, which not only earns the certification tick but also gives users access to TweetDeck and unrestricted exchanges between users.
But the varnish is beginning to crack. On Threads, Mark Zuckerberg says he no longer really believes the confrontation will take place. Although he proposed August 26 as the date for the battle, Elon Musk reportedly didn’t follow through. Another factor of doubt: on August 7, Musk stated on X that he had to “undergo an MRI of his neck and back” and that surgery might be necessary.
Read moreWill Elon Musk break Twitter for good?
August 11: The Coliseum hypothesis quickly dismissed
On August 11, the Tesla boss rekindled speculation that the Italian government had given the go-ahead for the match to be held at an “epic venue”. “Everything in the camera’s field will be as it was in ancient Rome, so nothing modern,” announced Elon Musk on August 11, adding that the fight would be broadcast jointly on X and the Meta group’s social networks.
Italy’s Minister of Culture confirms, in a press release, that he is in talks with the billionaire to organize “a major charity event evoking the history” of the country. The sum that could be raised, estimated at “several million euros, will be donated to two Italian children’s hospitals”, he adds.
However, on the same day, Mark Zuckerberg revealed on Threads that no date had yet been set for the fight. “If Elon ever ends up agreeing to something, you’ll hear about it from me. Until then, please assume that nothing he says has been approved” on Meta.
August 13: “It’s time to move on”.
On Sunday August 13, Meta’s boss seems intent on putting a definitive end to speculation. “We can all agree that Elon is not serious and it’s time to move on,” he writes on Threads. “Elon won’t confirm a date, claims he needs surgery, and now he’s offering me a training session in my backyard (…) I’d rather focus on competing with people who take the sport seriously.”
“Zuck’s a wimp,” retorted the main character before recounting this Tuesday, in a new tweet on X, how he would have liked to go to Mark Zuckerberg’s home on Monday evening to challenge him directly, but “tragically, he was out of town”. As the media outlet Platformer points out, Elon Musk has been in Cleveland (Ohio), 3500 kilometers from Silicon Valley, since Monday.
Are these publications intended to divert attention from the bad news piling up for X? That same weekend, data relayed by the website Mashable showed that the social network was struggling to attract paying subscribers. Despite the announcement of ad revenue sharing for subscribers, the service only gained 94,000 new customers between July 1 and August 10.
In another revelation over the weekend, the Washington Post revealed how X was severely slowing down access to links pointing to competitors such as YouTube, Instagram and Threads. For the time being, Elon Musk has not reacted to this.