Is it a Duel, a Clash of Gladiators, or a Freak Show? Will Tech Titans Really Fight in a Cage? Seriously?

If two tech titans abandon their dignity in order to get into a ring to fight; what do we call it besides pathetic? Would the Musk-Zuck Thrilla in Vanilla Be a Duel or More like Gladiators?

Is it a Duel, a Clash of Gladiators, or a Freak Show? Will Tech Titans Really Fight in a Cage? Seriously?
Photo by Redd F on Unsplash

From the category of, Y'all ain't gonna believe this shit… reports of a potential caged bout between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg… are true. The billionaire tech giants who have a bit of a history of trading insults, may move their one-upmanship into a ring. This is as strange to write as it is to read.

I admit there are a lot of things I don’t understand in this world. But what baffles me most is physical fighting; not in self-defense, but for entertainment or to settle a bet... or somesuch.

When I read that the Tesla-ed and Twitter-ed, Elon Musk and Meta-Facebook king, Mark Zuckerberg are in talks about a cage fight, I had to first ask what’s a cage fight? (Thanks, Jim Moore for enlightening me), and then I Googled to make sure I wasn’t reading a spoof.

In a rare moment, I was speechless. Let’s get this straight: two grown men, each worth billions and in a position to make some parts of this world a better place, want to prove whose is bigger in a caged physical fight? The answer is possibly.

A  Thrilla in Vanilla preview.

The reasons are circling, but who knows the truth? Speculation on the Zuck side is that he is feeling less relevant and wants an edgier image. Facebook is reportedly not as popular with young audiences and has taken the added hit of post-pandemic layoffs and slower growth.

An SEC lawsuit, a fall from grace as Chair, and critical media coverage of Musk centered around claims he has ruined Twitter since his takeover, making it less profitable and more comfortable for racists and extremists than under its former owners.

As Zuckerberg is preparing to launch a platform to compete with Twitter, Musk has advocated for the deletion of Facebook. And Zuckerberg was a vocal critic of Musk after the explosion of his SpaceX Rocket.

Given the lack of love between the tech bros, (Zuck doesn’t drive a Tesla - prefers a Volkswagon), how should we characterize potential fisticuffs between them?

A Duel?

I always hear the word "duel" in my head with a heavy French accent and the look of two Dukes slapping each other with white hankies.

In reality, the concept of fighting for honor made way here on the Mayflower as the European tradition practiced in places like England and Italy was brought to this land. Character attacks could lead to fights with or without weapons, and without legal consequences, provided either duelers lived. During the time of the Civil War, duels not only occurred between northern and southern members of Congress, but there were also South-on-South battles. The first duel by Europeans on this land happened in 1621. Two men who worked for an innkeeper got into it, both survived and were chained together for 24 hours without food or water. Sounds like a well-deserved grown folk’s timeout.

Among some Indigenous Peoples was their own version of the duel. It was a foregone conclusion that both dueling participants would die in a show of bravery. You were literally, all in.

But would the Musk-Zuck Thrilla in Vanilla Be a Duel or More like Gladiators?

I went to Wikipedia to see. They define gladiators as ancient professional fighters who usually specialized in particular weapons and types of armor. These professionals fought before the public in hugely popular organized games held in large purpose-built arenas throughout the Roman Empire from 105 BCE to 404 CE (official contests).

Nope. Not gladiators.

Is this a David and Goliath Situation?

While Musk has the larger net worth, a reported 234.3 billion vs Zuckerberg’s 89.9 billion, Zuckerberg is trained in jujitsu and works out daily, while Musk claims as a child he trained in Tae Kwando, karate, and judo…some jujitsu, but rarely works out. In one report he said his strategy would be to sit on Zuck since he has almost 45 pounds on him. Although they aren’t evenly matched, it’s difficult for my amateur eye to figure out which is the David or the Goliath in a potential match-up.

Maybe we more accurately call this a freak show. And freak shows attract audiences that don’t traditionally go in for viewing fights.

“If history has proven anything, it’s that the “freakshow” fights are the most captivating to the general public. The 2017 crossover boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and then-UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor did 4.3 million PPV buys, making it the second highest-selling fight of all time. That number came in closely behind Mayweather’s long-awaited dream match with Manny Pacquiao in 2015, which did 4.6 million buys.”
-from the MMA Fighting Newsletter

Money and my tongue-in-cheek assessment aside, this is one of the most pathetic things I’ve heard of in a long time. Even if they were decent enough to make it a charity bout, what message does a cage fight send to children and all people of the world? In my humble opinion, rather than building up manhood points, the two look like privileged, bored, overgrown adolescents. The largest thing on them would be their ego.  

Even with exhibition as the goal, they could have walked a race in high heels in support of breast cancer research or competed with giving a dying child’s best last wish.

If the two get into a ring, I’m sure it will be well-attended and watched and it will own the news cycle for several days. But it will also be a pitiful display of bad judgment and small men with big bank accounts.

While thousands would eat this up, I know of at least one exception…me.  I’m not entertained by people hitting, kicking, and whatever-ing each other, even as play. I’ll be washing my hair…whatever day or night it’s on.

Myra Jolivet is a storyteller. First a TV news anchor and reporter. Then came PR work and consulting. That's where she is today - banging her head against the wall - trying to help CEOs and political candidates tell their stories well. Myra writes a series of murder mysteries She was a kid with an imaginary friend. That says it all.