Despite just two professional fights on his record with one coming against an ex-NBA player with zero experience, Jake Paul has suddenly become the most sought-after fight in combat sports.
Part of the motivation is certainly the money that could be generated by facing off with a YouTube celebrity, who gets millions upon millions of views on videos he and his brother Logan post online. Additional motivation likely comes from fighters who want to face Paul with the opportunity to humble him after boasting that he’d embarrass a mixed martial artist inside the boxing ring.
Most recently, Paul has engaged in a war of words with retired UFC fighter and former Bellator champion Ben Askren as they flirted with the possibility of boxing in 2021. The same could be said with grappling champion Dillon Danis, who had a filming session interrupted by Paul throwing water balloons and toilet paper at him as the 23-year-old agitator continues to take shots at Irish superstar Conor McGregor and anyone even close to his orbit.
In response, Bellator president Scott Coker made a comment where he actually picked Paul to knockout Askren if that fight ever happened, which obviously upset the former Olympic wrestler.
According to Coker, he never actually meant to insult Askren with his comment but rather he was offering criticism to Paul as he continued to call out MMA fighters well known for their grappling ability without much striking background whatsoever.
“Listen first of all, Ben Askren, I know you’re mad because of what I said. I apologize,” Coker told MMA Fighting. “It was directly at [you] but the result, no diminishing of your accolades and all your victories and success in MMA. My only point with the Paul guys, Jake and Logan, these guys are really taking this very seriously. They’re in the gym, they’re boxing everyday. They’re surrounded by some serious boxing coaches and serious boxers. World class level and this is what they do.
“My only point when he said he wanted to fight Ben Askren, you already know what’s going to happen. Because to me, they are picking wrestlers or jiu-jitsu guys that they have an advantage over. That was really my point.”
While both Askren and Danis are accomplished grapplers, neither one has ever earned a knockout on the feet. In fact, Danis is currently just 2-0 in his professional fighting career after making the move to MMA following a long career spent on the mats as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner.
Coker believes that’s ultimately the reason why Paul is taking aim at those two as potential opponents because there’s far less risk involved that facing a legitimate striker with boxing experience.
“Why don’t you fight one of our guys like Douglas Lima, who can strike, too?” Coker said. “Why don’t pick one of our strikers? Why don’t you fight a guy like Ryan Bader, who can strike or [Vadim] Nemkov, who can strike.
“They’re definitely going after some of our MMA guys and just trying to picking the wrestler or the jiu-jitsu guy that will put them at a severe disadvantage. To me, that was more my point.”
On the flipside, Coker points out that before the Paul brothers were touting themselves as professional boxers, both grew up on the wrestling mats in their home state of Ohio.
Ohio is well known as one of the top states in the nation when it comes to wrestling programs and Logan Paul actually finished fifth in the state in his weight division during his senior year of high school. Jake Paul also wrestled like his older brother, which gives both of them a similar foundation to many of the best fighters in MMA today.
“You guys are great wrestlers, too,” Coker said. “They wrestled in high school or maybe in college in Ohio. I hear they’re from Ohio. Great wrestling program there. Why don’t you guys fight in MMA? Why do the MMA fighters always have to go to boxing? Why can’t it be the other way around?
“So to me, that was my question. That’s what the remark was and what Ben responded to. It’s all good, it’s water under the bridge and everybody moves forward. But if he is really going to fight Logan, I still feel that he’s at a disadvantage because he’s not a striker.”
As far as Danis goes, Coker would happily promote his Bellator prospect against one of the Paul brothers but he’d like to see a concession made if they are going to step into the boxing ring together.
“To me, come fight an MMA fighter in MMA or come fight an MMA fighter that really can strike,” Coker said. “I’d love to see that. Let’s do one and one. You guys fight them in boxing. You want to fight Dillon Danis, go ahead. But come back and fight him in MMA and be fair about it. It shouldn’t just be a one way street.”
In many ways, Coker actually respects the Paul brothers for putting in the work to learn the sport of boxing while also promoting themselves into these moneymaking fights. That said, he knows neither one of them are likely to accept his challenge, which speaks to the kinds of call outs they’ve been making lately.
“Listen, if you’re going to call out our guys, it has to make sense,” Coker said. “Let’s be fair about it. You wanna test yourself as well as test them. That’s a fair contest. But I don’t see that happening any time soon.
“I get it. Whoever’s doing their matchmaking for them is doing a good job. Let’s just put it that way.”