Elon Musk vs Mark Zuckerberg: Who would win a fight between tech titans?

A training partner of Musk has weighed in, as has the renowned coach of UFC icon Khabib Nurmagomedov

Matt Mathers,Alex Pattle
Thursday 29 June 2023 10:36
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Related video: Mark Zuckerberg spars with UFC fighter Khai Wu

Who would win a fight between Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg? It’s the sort of question that might be asked over a drink in the pub.

But a clash between the two of the world’s tech tycoons may no longer be hypothetical after Mr Zuckerberg apparently agreed to a cage fight with Mr Musk.

When rumours emerged earlier this month that the Facebook boss – a jiu-jitsu enthusiast – was looking for a rival, the Space X and Tesla founder tweeted that he was “up for a cage match”. Mr Zuckerberg then posted a screenshot of the tweet with the caption “send me location”, a reference to a famous line by ex-UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Now that a fight appears on the cards, how would the two men match up inside the ring?

At more than 6ft tall, Musk would have a clear height advantage over Zuckerberg, who measures up at 5ft 8in. Musk, 52, has not only a height advantage over his possible opponent but also a weight advantage. Musk tweeted: “I have this great move that I call ‘The Walrus’, where I just lie on top of my opponent & do nothing.” He added: “I almost never work out, except for picking up my kids & throwing them in the air.” In 2020, Musk also told Joe Rogan that he “wouldn’t exercise at all if [he] could”.

On the topic of weight and strength, computer scientist and podcast host Lex Fridman, who has trained with both Zuckerberg and Musk, said of the latter this week: “I did an impromptu training session with Elon Musk for a few hours yesterday. I’m extremely impressed with his strength, power, and skill, on the feet and on the ground. It was epic.”

However, Zuckerberg is a more experienced martial artist than Musk. The 39-year-old recently put his jiu-jitsu skills to the test in a real competition and won his first gold and silver medals at the Silicon Valley tournament. Furthermore, Zuckerberg has sparred with UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski – seen by many as the greatest mixed martial artist in the world – for a Meta project.

Musk would have a significant size advantage over his opponent

Although Zuckerberg is smaller and lighter than Musk, his technical ability and aerobic capacity could prove too much for the Tesla boss, who earlier this year said that his typical breakfast included a bowl of ice cream, biscuits and a donut. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg says he used to “run a lot” and got into surfing and then MMA after the Covid pandemic. “I really like watching UFC for example, that’s because I also like doing the sport [MMA],” he said on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “It really is the best sport, five minutes in I was like, ‘Where has this best my whole life?’ To some degree, MMA is the perfect thing because if you stop paying attention for one second you’re going to end up on bottom.”

In addition to his martial arts skills, Zuckerberg also recently participated in the “Murph Challenge,” a gruelling workout named after Lt Michael P Murphy, a Navy Seal who was killed in action in 2005. The challenge, which the 39-year-old said he tries to do each year with his daughters, involves 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and a mile-long run, all while wearing a 20-pound weighted vest. “This year I got it done in 39:58. The girls did a quarter-Murph (unweighted) in 15 mins!” Zuckerberg wrote on Instagram on 29 May.

According to Total Shape, a health and fitness platform that provides resources and expertise from fitness experts, Zuckerberg’s ability to “complete extreme fitness challenges and technique with mixed martial arts showcases he has substantial ability and endurance”. When it comes down to who would win in a fight, “it is agility vs strength,” experts at Total Shape say, while noting that, based on “general endurance and skill for cage fighting, Mark Zuckerberg would have the upper hand”. However, “having strength and longer reach can give a fighter a lead when it comes to forceful striking and make it more difficult for the opponent to strike back”.

Ultimately, the health and fitness experts at Total Shape conclude: “Placing both titans in a cage, Mark Zuckerberg would have the edge of agility and endurance needed to take Mr Musk down, given Mr Musk isn’t able to forcefully strike him earlier on in the fight.”

Weighing in on the potential match-up, Javier Mendez – former coach of Khabib and current trainer of UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev – said: “The big advantage Zuckerberg has over Elon is that he’s actively training and he’s more of a dog right now, because he entered a jiu-jitsu tournament, so that tells me a lot about him. All things considered, Zuckerberg is way ahead of Musk, but you won’t really know until you see what Musk possesses.

“My number-one priority for Musk would be to see how hard he could hit and how easy it would be for him to keep the fight standing up,” Mendez said. “Because Zuckerberg is so ahead of him with the jiu-jitsu, I would want Musk to think about ways to prevent takedowns. But you can’t avoid a takedown just by trying to avoid it; you have to avoid it by striking.”

Musk would do well to heed that advice, and he has seemingly agreed to be trained by UFC legend Georges St-Pierre.

Georges St-Pierre reigned as UFC welterweight champion and later won the middleweight belt

The potential face-off comes amid rumours that Zuckerberg is preparing to create a new app to rival Twitter, which is expected to be called Threads. The app, internally codenamed Project 92, will reportedly feature a continuous scroll of text, buttons similar to Twitter’s like and retweet functions, and a 500-character limit on posts.

It is not the first time Musk has called for a fight with a global figure. In August last year he challenged the Russian president to a scrap. "I hereby challenge Vladimir Putin to a fight. The prize is Ukraine," he wrote. Putin didn’t respond to the goading but the irony was apparently lost on his Chechen war lord ally, Ramzan Kadyrov.

"A word of advice: don’t measure your strength against Putin’s, you’re in two different leagues," the henchman warned.

In a statement to Verge about whether a fight will indeed take place between Mr Zuckerberg and Mr Musk, a spokesperson for Meta said: “The story speaks for itself.”

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