Posted on: September 30, 2022, 04:04h.
Last updated on: October 1, 2022, 12:35h.
The internet is abuzz with the improbable rumor that Facebook founder and MMA enthusiast Mark Zuckerberg will step into the octagon for a UFC match on Saturday. Fueling the speculation is a video he posted on Sept. 3 on Facebook. It shows Zuckerberg training with Khai Wu at the UFC fighter’s Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu Academy in San Jose, Calif. (It’s embedded at the end of this post.)
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg’s presence at Saturday’s UFC 61, a strawweight bout between Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan, was confirmed by Dern during a press conference. “I know Mark Zuckerberg rented out the whole event,” she told reporters. “I know he’ll be there, but I don’t know if it’s literally him, his wife, or if he’ll have friends – some type of party. But from someone who wanted a main event with a crowd, [it’s now] going to be very, very private.”
This provided a much-demanded explanation for why the public and media had inexplicably been banned earlier this week from the event. The UFC has held regular televised cards at its Apex Gym on its Las Vegas corporate campus since the start of the pandemic. However, it has always allowed some fans and media to watch from the audience.
“It just makes me more driven to put on a good show,” Dern said when asked about the last-minute change. “I know everyone is watching on TV. But for Mark and whoever is going to be there, put on a show. If that’s what they want to see, is a show, then we’re going to give a show.”
Oddsmakers did not calculate the likelihood of a Zuckerberg bout tomorrow. However, based on his Facebook video, Sportsbettingdime.com reported a line on his three most likely opponents when he finally decides to throw down. They are fellow billionaire and MMA fan Mark Cuban (+1500), actor Ashton Kutcher (+2000) and Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam (+2000).
Later on Wednesday, UFC President Dana White took to Twitter to deny Dern’s claim, writing: “Mark Zuckerberg did NOT rent out the UFC Apex. That’s total bulls–t.”
White’s denial notwithstanding, there could be another, less-insane reason for the presence of the 39-year-old billionaire on Saturday. White has stated that the UFC wants to broadcast a fight into the metaverse – a set of 3D locales that can be accessed only via VR equipment.
“We’ve been working on it for a while,” he told YouTube’s “Full Send” podcast back in January. “It’ll be a live fight, an actual fight that takes place inside the metaverse. It’d be kids at home, you put on your (goggles) and you can (get) up and go walk around. We’re still working it out. But yeah, it’ll be soon.”
If Zuckerberg does show up, it could merely signal that those plans are nearing their final stages. Just two days ago, Zuckerberg posted to Facebook a video of Olympic medalists Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt fencing in the metaverse. Zuckerberg explained in that post: “Using our new high-end VR headset, coming out next month with mixed reality … you can see virtual objects (like your friends fencing) alongside the physical world around you.”
Saturday’s 13-bout Fight Night card starts with prelims at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the undercard bouts at 7 p.m. ET. Dern (12-2) is set to enter the octagon with Xiaonan (15-3) around 10 p.m. ET. The fight will be broadcast, as usual, on ESPN+.
And no, Zuckerberg is not on the card – not officially, anyway. But if you really need to see the guy fight, here you go…
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