Home Featured Round-by-round scoring of the cage fight of the century – POLITICO
Round-by-round scoring of the cage fight of the century – POLITICO

Round-by-round scoring of the cage fight of the century – POLITICO

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Get ready for Zuck vs. Musk.

When Elon Musk challenged Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to a “cage match” in June, it looked like just another trollish joke by the head of Tesla, SpaceX and the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Now it increasingly looks like the fight might actually happen. 

The tech moguls are reportedly working with Dana White, president of Mixed Martial Arts organization UFC, to set up a charity punch-up in the next few months. Among the venues that have been mooted are Las Vegas’ Octagon Arena and Rome’s Colosseum (Italy’s Ministry of Culture told POLITICO that’s not an option owing to upcoming maintenance of the ancient arena).

The two tech titans haven’t waited for the details to be worked out to start throwing sucker punches — via social media burns, product jousting and legal threats. Just like the real fight (if it ever happens), it’s a battle in which only one man can come out on top.

Here’s POLITICO’s round-by-round match analysis of the runup to the Silicon Valley Showdown.

Round one

The gauntlet is thrown in June after Meta’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox reveals the company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, is developing a “response to Twitter.” This new product, he adds, will be “sanely run” — a pointed jab at Musk’s chaotic stewardship of the platform. 

An article in the Verge reveals the app’s likely name: Threads.

After brooding for a couple of weeks, Musk fights back on his favorite platform — his own. On June 21, he tweets that Meta’s new app would put Earth “exclusively under Zuck’s thumb with no other options.”

“At least it will be ‘sane,’” he adds. “Was worried there for a moment 😅.”

After one of his fans eggs him on, warning that Zuckerberg studies jiu-jitsu, Musk answers: “I’m up for a cage match if he is lol.”

Zuck’s laconic answer via an Instagram story: “Send Me Location.” 

It’s on.

WINNER: Musk’s challenge was bold, and Zuck’s reply was badass. We’ll call this one a draw.

Photo-illustration by Giulia Poloni/POLITICO (source images via iStock)

Round two

On July 5, Zuckerberg lands an uppercut that leaves Musk staggering: Threads launches to great acclaim. Some 10 million users, including a host of politicians and celebrities (out of the EU, where Threads has yet to be rolled out), download the app on the first day.

The following day Zuck follows up with a combo. He braves enemy territory — Twitter — to post a cheeky Spider-Man meme, then retreats to Threads to suggest his app might one day boast a billion users. “Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it,” he adds.

On the ropes, Musk responds with limp digs against “closed source” systems, social media monopolies and Instagram’s offering of “false happiness.” 

He tries a counterpunch: a letter threatening legal action against Meta, accusing it of poaching former Twitter employees with access to the company’s intellectual property. Except — Meta swears — nobody on Threads’ engineering team used to work at Twitter.

WINNER: This round goes to Zuckerberg and his meme game. Threads dominated the online conversation for days. Musk’s legalistic comeback barely landed.

Photo-illustration by Ellen Boonen/POLITICO (source images via Getty and iStock)

Round three

Musk goes full heel on Zuckerberg, lobbing crude insults to thunderous applause by his blue-check fans. “Zuck is a cuck,” Musk tweets on July 9 — deploying a well-worn alt-right slur. He ends his flurry by challenging the Meta boss to a penis-measuring contest (it’s unclear whether that would be in addition to or during the cage fight.)

Zuckerberg takes no notice. Threads clocks up 100 million users.

WINNER: We’ll call it a draw, with an edge for Zuck. Each man came away with a reason for feeling victorious. While Musk’s edgelord antics earned him the attention he craves, Zuckerberg prevailed on his own metric-focused terms. But is the Twitter boss’ offer of an alternative contest a sign of the first frissons of fear?

Photo-illustration by Giulia Poloni/POLITICO (source images via iStock)

Round four

On July 27, Zuckerberg tells his staff that Threads has lost more than half of its users since its launch. Less than 24 hours later, Musk, not one to waste a shot at a low blow, announces that his app now has more than 540 million monthly users, a new high.

His tweet, or post, comes days after he has changed the company’s name to X and done away with the iconic blue bird logo.

WINNER: Musk wins the round on all counts. Not only did he land a number-laden uppercut on a tottering Zuck; the Twitter-to-X rebrand, while questionable as a long-term choice, made headlines for days, totally eclipsing Threads.

Photo-illustration by Ellen Boonen/POLITICO (source images via Getty and iStock)

Round five

So, cage fight. Who is ready? Zuck, it seems.

On Instagram, the Meta boss is posting (admittedly, niche) thirst-traps, pictures of himself ripped, bare chested and black-belted, flanked by tank-sized trainers.

In a Threads post on August 7, he snipes at Musk, revealing that his wannabe opponent has not taken up his offer to hold the match on August 26. “Not holding my breath,” he adds.

“Exact date is still in flux,” Musk answers on X. “I’m getting an MRI of my neck & upper back tomorrow. May require surgery before the fight can happen. Will know this week.”

WINNER: A knockdown and two points for battle-ready Zuck. Will Musk get back on his feet before the count is called?

The score so far: Zuckerberg 4, Musk 2.  POLITICO will update this story as it develops. 

Photo-illustration by Giulia Poloni/POLITICO (source images via Getty and iStock)

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