One of the dumber news stories of the past few weeks has been the talk of a fight—presumably live, televised, and in a cage—between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.
I don’t blame you if you’ve scrolled past any mention of this story. It is one of the best examples of the devolution of American culture in recent memory. But thanks to my disdain for most things that come out of Silicon Valley; my interest in the contemporary turn toward clownish, antiquated expressions of masculinity; and my paycheck, I have followed it closely.
Here are the basics. (And, bear with me, I have a working theory about it, too.)
How did this start?
Instagram, owned by Meta, was planning to launch a direct competitor to Twitter called Threads. As the Verge reported, Meta chief product officer Chris Cox said at an all-hands meeting that celebrities were “interested in a platform that is sanely run”—an obvious shot at Musk’s incompetent reign as owner of Twitter.
Interesting. Which celebrities are we talking about?
The Verge reported that Cox said they had been in discussions with Oprah and the Dalai Lama. Cox also reportedly said that DJ Slime had “committed to using the app.”
Who is DJ Slime?
I have no idea.
Same. I just looked it up and lost a few minutes. I cannot find him.
I know. It’s weird. It might be this Polish guy. We have to move on.
Yeah…you’re right. So, how did Elon take the news?
On June 20, Musk tweeted “Zuck my 👅” to a screenshot of a Daily Mail headline aggregating the Verge’s reporting. Later that day he tweeted: “I’m sure Earth can’t wait to be exclusively under Zuck’s thumb with no other options. At least it will be ‘sane.’ Was worried there for a moment 😅.”
After that, a user named “frankenbeans”—with 113 followers and an avatar displaying an assault rifle over an American flag—replied: “Better be careful @elonmusk I heard he does the ju jitsu now 😆 🤣 😂 😹 😆 🤣 😂 😹 😆.”
That’s funny. He’s making fun of Mark Zuckerberg because he’s a little dork?
“frankenbeans” is joking but he’s also being serious: Mark Zuckerberg does jiu-jitsu now.
Zuckerberg said he started training during the pandemic. His coach, Dave Camarillo, is the former head jiu-jitsu coach for the American Kickboxing Academy. In May, Zuckerberg registered for a jiu-jitsu tournament in Redwood City, California nearby Meta’s headquarters, under the name “Mark Elliot.” He beat a Senior Software Engineer at Uber who was also competing in his first tournament, according to ESPN.
Yes. Here are the photos.
Okay. Thank you.
Not to jump too far ahead but here is Zuckerberg from a few days ago. He’s ripped now.
So to recap: Mark Zuckerberg is shredded, can fight, and a man with about 100 followers on Twitter told Elon Musk about it.
So, what did Musk say to frankenbeans?
Musk replied, “I’m up for a cage match if he is lol,” and then two days later said he wanted to go “full MMA”
I’m up for a cage match if he is lol
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 21, 2023
Let’s go full MMA
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 22, 2023
How did Zuckerberg respond?
According to the New York Times when Zuckerberg saw these tweets he texted Dana White, chairman of the UFC, to ask if Musk was serious. White confirmed with Musk who told White he was “dead serious.” Then Zuckerberg took to his Instagram story and posted a screenshot of Musk’s tweet overlaid with “Send Me Location.”
“Send Me Location”?
It is the catchphrase of the Russian ultimate fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov. Basically, it is UFC speak for: “I’m going to fuck you up.” When asked for comment, Meta spokesperson Iska Saric told the Verge: “The story speaks for itself.”
This joke is going too far.
Bud, it’s just starting. After that, Elon responded to the Verge reporter Alex Heath’s tweet of the story with: “Vegas Octagon.”
This went from weird and stupid to feeling like a Rogaine commercial.
For sure. I’m sorry.
Why is Elon so confident though? Can he fight?
Well, he once squared up with a sumo wrestler. He challenged Putin to a fight. He told Joe Rogan he did Karate as a child. And on June 23, Musk tweeted that he had trained in Judo, a Japanese style of Karate called Kyokushin, and (most importantly) “No rules street-fighting. ” He then also told Dana White that he had been in “plenty of fights growing up in South Africa.”
Musk has said he has a go-to move called the “Walrus”: “I just lie on top of my opponent and do nothing.”
— John Shahidi (@john) June 22, 2023
Okay, so he might die.
Well. Let’s go the stats. According to this title card, Musk is a little over 6 feet and Zuckerberg is 5 foot 7 inches. Musk is also 13 years older and said to be 70 pounds heavier. (According to TMZ and the Times the weight difference is a point of concern for would-be promoter Dana White—like boxers, UFC fighters are separated by weight class.)
I think in my scrolling past this I saw the words “Andrew Tate.” He’s involved? He’s training Elon Musk?
No. It’s stupider.
How could that be possible?
Meta censored Tate’s supposed truth-telling about vaccines and so the misogynist influencer, and former professional kickboxer, offered to train Musk to “restore honour with a strike at the enemy clans leader.” Popular podcaster Lex Fridman (the best description I have is he’s a fourteen-year-old’s pantomime of a smart person) posted a photo on July 3rd of himself, Musk, and MMA legend Georges St. Pierre after a “great training session.”
Alright, so who is Zuckerberg training with?
According to a photo posted yesterday, Zuckerberg is training with the professional MMA fighters Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski. (That’s the thirst trap photo I linked earlier.)
Did Volkanovski and Zuckerberg “spar” in the Metaverse?
Yes, and it might cause you brain damage.
Are there other random guys coming out of the woodwork trying to get clout from the fight?
Of course. An MMA guy named Chael Sonnen, who sounds like Rush Limbaugh with a punctured lung, said Zuckerberg called him directly to say the fight would be at UFC 300. “The way he talked to me, it was like we were old friends,” said Sonnen.
Is Chael Sonnen full of shit?
According to a Zuckerberg spokesperson? Yes.
Will they be clothed?
Noted masculine intellectual Jordan Peterson wanted to know.
What else did he say?
He said there should be “oil involved :)”: Is there oil involved :)?
Well, I have no idea. I’m sorry.
To get back on track: This has all been as dumb as you promised. But does it matter? Or am I just watching two men acting like boys on the internet?
Well, it kind of might matter a little? Meta launched their Twitter competitor, Threads, on July 5th. It quickly gained 100 million participants. So, there is a physical fight and also a, um, business fight.
How did Musk react?
He called Zuckerberg a “cuck” and suggested a “literal dick measuring contest.” On July 6, his lawyer sent a letter to Meta threatening legal action (about the website not the dick contest or physical fight): “Twitter intends to strictly enforce its intellectual property rights, and demands that Meta take immediate steps to stop using any Twitter trade secrets or other highly confidential information.”
Well, is this whole thing a waste of time? I feel like I just endured spon-con for the idea of social media but it made me want to become a radical luddite.
Hmm. If it helps, everyone involved is acting like they actually might hit one another. A week ago, Dana White said the fight was on, “100 percent.” He told the press he’ll “announce it when we’re ready. It won’t be UFC 300.”
If that happens, I guess I’ll watch it. Or maybe not. I don’t think I care anymore.
Totally makes sense. Can I say my big idea about this?
Oh yeah. Go for it. Your “working theory.”
Alright: Clearly, Zuckerberg wants to kick Musk’s ass. He probably sees it as his best chance for a personal brand revival. As the Washington Post noted, he is in a period of trying to be “cool.” I guess for men today that means doing three-hour podcasts, posting Crossfit photos, and wakeboarding while you listen to Aesop Rock.
So, that means, on the one side we’ve got Musk. He is perhaps the world’s best carnival barker; a professional bullshit artist. But it’s coming back to bite him. Since he purchased Twitter, Musk has lost $200 billion of his personal wealth; the company is reportedly now worth half of what he paid for it. (According to Bloomberg, nobody has ever lost that much money before.)
And on the other side is Zuckerberg—a man who has lost over $100 billion of his personal wealth trying to sell us the Metaverse.
The judgment of each man is questionable.
But until fairly recently, Musk was a semi-exalted nerd. His projects seemed altruistic (at least in terms of Silicon Valley): Mars, electric cars, the Hyperloop. As that narrative has thinned, and Musk started to talk about “the woke mind virus,” he’s fallen from the most beloved tech billionaire to the most hated. Even if he retains a legion of fanboys.
As Alex Hochuli wrote in The New Statesman, the whole thing has a feudal character, like the “new lords have deigned to descend upon the town square and we get to cheer on our favourite.” Elon is the guy who everyone thought might save the world, and now they’re worried he’ll be part of the end. Zuckerberg already altered the country and the world for the worse, but he thinks if he knocks out the new schoolyard bully we might forget.
In this way, the fight is truly indicative of social media: It’s a modern popularity contest.
Yeah, I just came back to note: After I wrote this, Musk said on X (the new name for Twitter, it’s dumb) the fight would be streamed on his platform and that proceeds “will go to charity for veterans.” Zuckerberg did some corporate speak bad mouthing of X and responded: “Shouldn’t we use a more reliable platform that can actually raise money for charity?” Then, I don’t know, they kind of kept debating if they were going to actually fight.
This is dumb.
Update, August 7: This story has been updated to reflect that Musk claimed the fight would be streamed on X, his new name for Twitter, and then Zuckerberg replied calling X less than reliable.