I know how this is going to sound, but we really should give Jake Paul a chance. Last week, the YouTube provocateur turned boxer turned boxing promoter told the New York Times that he’s doing the one thing nobody said he would do: fight in MMA.
Paul is going to join the PFL not just as a fighter–with a multi-fight contract–but as something called the “Head of Fighter’s Advocacy” and will create a “Super Fight” division that will lead to massive payouts for fighters.
Now I know a lot of people don’t like Paul, but he’s a guy who gets things done and when he believes he can succeed in something, he follows through. He’s not only become a pro boxer, but he’s the sport’s second biggest draw behind Saul “Canelo” Alvarez with only six fights. As a promoter, Paul has drawn a heavy amount of awareness to female boxing unlike any other time in the sport and isn’t afraid to tell the establishment figures to shove it if they don’t like what he has to say.
Paul is a pitchman and an entertainer, and he’s very good at what he does. Because of that, everyone who is a fan of MMA should be on the edge of their seat to see what may come next.
We all know the current state of things in MMA. There’s the UFC and then there’s everyone else. But even now, the UFC is experiencing the kind of problems that leave the door open for people to want to try something else. It hasn’t even been two full months since the UFC was rocked with back-to-back scandals that could turn people off from it.
The first is a massive gambling scandal occurring on a UFC card that has become so big that the FBI is involved. Couple that with some awful judging that has fans facing the ugly fact that the UFC does in fact prefer certain fighters to win more than others.
That just happened over the last month and a half, and we’re not even talking about the biggest problem that just happened.
UFC President Dana White’s viral assault of his wife in a Mexican nightclub has gone from ugly to expected. White was given a chance to publicly bury the body so to say, with a pair of softball interviews from TMZ Sports and ESPN’s Brett Okamoto to ensure things move along. Aside from that, the organization itself is in a state of unease.
Fighters are upset that they aren’t getting paid as much as they should. There are major talent gaps in most divisions. This means we’re getting the same fight more times than we care to see. As of right now, that same gap in talent could be said about rival promotions when compared to the UFC.
Bellator will be sold at some point in 2023 and nobody really cares that much about Invicta FC or the other UFC minor league outfits on the market right now. That’s why PFL’s acquisition of Jake Paul is a huge deal. Paul is known for shaking things up and knows how to get people involved in a cause, even when they don’t think they want to be.
Paul made his intent clear in his interview with the Times, sayings:
“I am aligned with PFL to evolve the sport. I believe in PFL, their mission and what they have accomplished in a very short time. I invite all top MMA fighters, both men and women, to join the PFL and get a payday like they’ve never had before.”
And this isn’t anything new from Paul. From the moment he started boxing, he’s been vocal about MMA fighters needing to be paid better and even potentially unionizing to ensure they get health benefits after their careers are over. Things like that would prevent us from seeing things like Antonio Silva march out to get whatever’s left of his brains scrambled time and again, or Stephen Bonnar dying due to health complications being broke and addicted to painkillers.
Perhaps Paul has been all about this from the start. His boxing opponents have been mostly ex-MMA fighters who got career-high paydays to fight him. Something they couldn’t do until they were freed from a tyrannical UFC contract that prevents them from getting paid more than White believes they should be paid, or even making money on the side by pursuing sponsorship deals that could increase their income.
Francis Ngannou, the current UFC heavyweight champion, is one of those fighters who has taken notice. Ngannou has had his share of blowups with White and the UFC regarding that issue. Recently, the champion had a picture taken with his mother prominently wearing a PFL shirt as he recovers from injury.
So what is this all leading up to? Well, if I’m right, it’s leading to the biggest fight in MMA history.
Paul joining the PFL won’t be enough to overwhelm the UFC, even with White mired in controversies and being a generally unlikeable guy, but it doesn’t have to do that right away. With Paul drawing fighters away from the UFC who tire of White’s constant need to be in the spotlight, encouraging journalists who are often castigated for not being “yes men” to appease White’s ego and using DAZN’s global platform to put on events around the world, he has enough to get started.
This isn’t unlike Eric Bischoff’s rise from broadcast announcer to Executive Vice President of World Champion Wrestling in 1993. Bischoff had a vision that didn’t rub the brass the right way, but in just one year, he secured the likes of disenfranchised talents like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Lex Luger to make WCW a true competitor to the former WWF.
Could Paul lure the likes of Ngannou or other previously upset fighters like Charles Oliveira to the promotion? Will the war chest be filled with enough money to stage unheard-of returns to the octagon for Brock Lesnar or even Conor McGregor? Will fighters see the grass is greener and leave just to get away from the restraints of the UFC?
If he plays his cards right, he can do a lot of damage. By even threatening the UFC’s bottom line in 2023, Paul can make a massive statement and shake up the sport in a way we haven’t seen in years.
The ensuing game of oneupsmanship between the boisterous Paul and White would keep the flames burning. Should Paul invest in PFL and his commitment to MMA in the long run, this could be a fun ride.
So yes, give Jake Paul a chance. What’s the worst that can happen?