Jake Paul is okay at boxing. He’s good at wrestling. He may be decent at MMA. He’s great, however, at attracting attention.
YouTuber/influencer/C-list celebrity Jake Paul announced Thursday morning that he’s signed a deal with mixed martial arts outfit, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) and will make his MMA debut later in the year.
The 25-year-old says that he’s not done with boxing and will simultaneously compete in the two combat sports. He’s also publicly offered UFC legend Nick Diaz a two-fight deal to face him, once in a boxing match and then in an MMA contest. The bouts would be part of a special class in the PFL called the “super fight division” (which will probably be a purely fluff celebrity-fighting branch of the company).
Paul’s move to MMA totally couldn’t be about the well running dry for him in boxing, right?
He’s publicly admitted that his last couple of boxing events were less financially successful than anticipated. Turning his attention-grabbing shtick into a long-term sustainable boxing business as a novice boxer, who doesn’t fight actual boxers, was always going to be an uphill battle. The sport’s most loyal consumers have received him with takes ranging from indifference to outright hostility. And it was always in question whether Paul could turn social media banter from his young fan base into pay-per-views buys.
“I’ve officially signed as an MMA fighter to the fastest-growing sports league in the world, the PFL, baby,” Paul said via media statement. “And not only am I an MMA fighter now…but I am also a co-founder of the new PFL pay-per-view super fight division.
“I personally will be deeply involved in making sure the PFL is the best place in the world for fighters. As you guys know, I’ve been trying to increase fighter pay for all fighters worldwide, and with the launch of this new division, our fighters will be receiving 50 percent of the revenue. A true 50/50 partnership with fighters that still allows them to be individuals and even monetize their own sponsorship deals, which as we know, isn’t allowed in the UFC…
“I’m taking this seriously, OK? Yes, I still want to become a world champion in boxing, but as you guys know, I was a wrestler first. When all of these influencers started boxing and calling people out, if you recall, I said I wanted to do MMA.
“I’ve already disrupted boxing, and now it’s time to disrupt MMA. I know this is such a tough sport, and this is not gonna be easy, but if I can do it in boxing, I can do it in MMA. I’m so dedicated to this that I offered Nate Diaz a two-fight deal. First, we box, then six months later, we fight MMA in the PFL and lay it all on the line. If that’s not balls, I don’t know what is!”
Paul’s switch to MMA is not necessarily an admission of failure in boxing. It is, however, the modus operandi of a hustler who moves on to a new set of marks when the old marks start getting wise to the hustle.
There’s little doubt that Paul will have success working with the PFL—at first. The success will be less and less over time as the whole act starts to get old. Then, he’ll move on to something else. Maybe the WWE, like his brother Logan, who, like Jake, has dabbled in boxing. The elder Paul brother then moved right into the more suitable world of pro wrestling.
Jake Paul could’ve been a useful tool to boxing promoters in dire need of bringing some fresh blood to a stagnant sport. Now, the guy will just be a tool elsewhere.