‘We’ve entered the Twilight Zone’: Behind the beef that led to Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘cage match’

Money can’t buy you happiness, but can $230 billion buy you a TKO? 

Elon Musk is apparently ready to find out, with the world’s richest man having challenged Mark Zuckerberg to a “cage match” — an offer that the martial arts-loving Facebook co-founder quickly agreed to. 

“This is real bad blood. This is a beef that has lasted over years,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives tells CNBC Make It. “It’s gotten more and more nasty. And it looks like the only way it’s going to be settled is in the cage.” 

“I think we’ve entered the Twilight Zone,” Ives added. “It’s a new era of settling disputes.”

If the billionaire brawl does indeed take place in the “Vegas Octagon” like Musk proposed, it will be the culmination of a yearslong rivalry between two of the most powerful figures in tech. 

I think we’ve entered the Twilight Zone. It’s a new era of settling disputes.

Dan Ives

Analyst, Wedbush Securities

Musk and Zuckerberg — who have a combined net worth of $335 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — have traded jabs over the years, each taking turns insulting the other’s businesses.

Earlier this year, Musk tweeted that “Instagram makes people depressed,” and in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018 he deleted the Facebook pages of his companies Tesla and SpaceX, adding that the social network was “lame.” 

“I don’t use FB and never have,” Musk tweeted at the time, adding: “Just don’t like Facebook. Gives me the willies. Sorry.” 

The 51-year-old Twitter owner has also taken swings at Meta-owned WhatsApp, tweeting in May that it “cannot be trusted.” 

For his part, Zuckerberg has publicly criticized Musk in the past. Following a failed SpaceX launch of a Facebook satellite in 2016, the 39-year-old was quick to lay the blame at the Musk’s feet. 

“I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” Zuckerberg said at the time. 

Mark Zuckerberg posing with UFC president Dana White during a UFC Fight Night event.

Jeff Bottari | Ufc | Getty Images

Zuckerberg has also disagreed with Musk about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, calling Musk’s “doomsday scenarios” — he has said A.I. could create an “immortal dictator from which we can never escape” —  “really negative, and in some ways I think it is pretty irresponsible.” 

The latest butting of heads comes as reports emerged that Zuckerberg’s Meta is working on building a rival to Twitter. But a public challenge to a fight is new for both of them.

“This is unique,” Eleanor Bloxham, CEO of corporate advisory firm The Value Alliance, tells CNBC Make It. “And it is a low point, as far as maturity of CEOs goes.”

Now, the two rivals appear ready to settle their disagreements, though it is unclear how fair of a fight it will be. 

Zuckerberg is an avid fan of combat sports, having recently won gold and silver at a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament, while Musk on Wednesday admitted “I almost never work out.” 

But the 6-foot-2 Musk does have the size and weight advantage over the 5-foot-7 Zuckerberg. 

“Ultimately, regardless of who wins the match, I think the big winner is the internet,” Ives says.

Representatives for Zuckerberg and Musk did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.

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