Dear Mark … Are you really going to fight a mixed martial arts cage match with Elon Musk? It sounds like the plot of a bad ’90s cyberpunk novel or an outtake from Idiocracy. I have to believe this is a massive troll by the two of you—my bullshit detector is screaming like a banshee. But there are disturbing indications this isn’t a joke.
This week you were training with UFC champions. According to The New York Times, you and Musk have been in touch with Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to set up the bout, most likely in the Las Vegas Octagon. “It will be the biggest fight in the history of combat sports,” White said.
If the matchup happens, it would also lower the bar for what passes as civilization in our society. Just in case this is real: I implore you, don’t do this.
I can see that you have become a fitness nut, Mark. You recently aced the Murph challenge, which involves a whole lot of calisthenics and sweating. Instagram posts have appeared with images of your swole bod. Last month, you told your favorite podcast interlocutor, Lex Fridman, that the bulk of your training goes toward fighting and that you have recruited friends and Meta colleagues for an informal training circle, like a middle-aged nerd version of the after-school training camp in The Karate Kid. Hey, whatever works to relieve the pressure of running Meta! I understand.
But this Musk thing isn’t a respectful bout in the grand tradition of Zen or Jedi masters. It’s a distempered twist to a failed business relationship turned nasty and personal. Remember, Mark, I was there when it started! That was in Nigeria, when you learned that Musk had put your satellite on a rocket before the testing was finished, and the whole thing exploded. You were steamed—and things haven’t been great between you since. More recently Musk learned you were planning to launch a competitor to Twitter, which he bought for $44 billion but has since watched plummet in value. That’s when Musk issued the cage-match challenge, which you rashly, tragically accepted.
You and Elon have indicated that some of the pay-per-view funds from this battle royale will go to charity. Sorry, you don’t get to sugarcoat this so easily. You and Elon are among the two richest people in the world. With a swipe of your phone you could divert a few billion dollars to any humanitarian cause you choose, including your own Zuckerberg-Chan Initiative, which seeks to eliminate all disease. Charity is a wonderful expression of humanity’s best qualities; this battle would be nothing less than a reversion to the basest impulses of our species.
In any case, leave it to Elon to say out loud the real subtext of this glorified schoolyard scrap. In a tweet this week, he suggested that he and you should have a “literal dick-measuring contest.” That’s the level of sophistication this rivalry sits at now. Instead of defining yourselves by your historic technological and corporate achievements, you two are striving to settle disputes like cavemen.
Here’s what’s even more alarming: Hand-to-hand combat is an idea that’s catching on among the super rich. During this week’s mega-elite mogul-fest in Sun Valley, Marc Andreessen, a longtime member of Meta’s board, reportedly endorsed the Elon-Zuck bout and, according to Puck’s report, went further, calling for a “return to how humans have historically defended themselves.” He went on to urge parents to “train their children in martial arts in anticipation of an increasingly violent and uncertain world.” (All this is kind of odd coming from a billionaire. In my observation, the ultra-rich usually travel with private security that dramatically lowers the odds of some tech-hating Bruce Lee wannabe laying on them with fists of fury.)