Jake Paul may be a boxer but he’s spent a lot of time during his professional career calling out mixed martial artists and asking them to cross over sports to face him.
This past weekend, the 24-year-old Ohio native demolished retired UFC fighter Ben Askren with a brutal first-round knockout to move his record to 3-0. In the days since the fight, Paul has taken shots at former champions like Daniel Cormier with others like Tyron Woodley calling him out for a future showdown.
While Paul has certainly looked impressive during his first three wins, which all ended by knockout, he still hasn’t faced anybody with a boxing resume or even a MMA fighter with a striking background.
Uriah Hall, who competes this weekend at UFC 261, won’t knock Paul for taking the path of least resistance when it comes to his fight career, especially considering the money he’s banking after the recent Triller Fight Club card sold over 1 million pay-per-views.
That said, he still can’t help but feel like it’s a sad state of affairs that Paul can walk into combat sports and make millions while there are fighters who have been scratching and clawing for an opportunity their entire lives and they still earn scraps.
“Here’s what I really think — at the end of the day it’s a great business move but it’s just a disappointment, too,” Hall explained during UFC 261 media day. “You know some people are selling out, I get it. I remember watching that or even hearing about it going I’m working my ass off, literally dying — this motherf*cker comes out there, says a couple [things] and I know what he’s doing. Let’s be honest, the guy sucks. He sucks. He really sucks and look who he’s picking. So I get it.
“From a business standpoint, a YouTube person is going out there and people are feeding off that. You have people that hate him and you have people that love him, you’ve still got to watch him. It’s genius but at the same time it humiliates what I call real athletes that really put in the time. I know guys behind me not even making that much. I know guys out there that aren’t making as much as the ring card girls.”
While the pay scale in MMA has been a hot button subject for years, Hall still struggles to wrap his head around Paul earning the kind of money he’s taking home as a 3-0 boxer without ever facing any legit competition.
When asked what would happen if he was asked by Paul to serve as his next opponent, Hall didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I say I’m going to knock you the f*ck out and thank you for the opportunity,” Hall said. “Cause we all know I would kill him. I would tell you bro, I will literally beat you with one hand. You don’t deserve my right hand. I’ll do it for free. That’s how confident I am.”
Prior to the event this past weekend, former UFC light heavyweight title contender Anthony Smith took exception to some comments that were made by Paul about his commitment to the sport while mentioning that had shown early signs of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Paul later retracted those comments but Smith believes it just speaks to a larger problem with the social influencer getting involved in combat sports without showing respect to the game or those who have given their lives to boxing or mixed martial arts.
“Anyone that’s followed my career kind of knows how I operate,” Smith said. “Is he generating money? For sure but he’s not bringing our pay scale up at all. He’s paying himself and that’s really it and whatever bum he drags in to fight. I’m really about respect. You can say what you want about Ben Askren and his skills and his abilities but that dude has won multiple world titles in multiple different organizations. He was an Olympic level wrestler, a multi-time national champion wrestler. All these fighters that are walking around here today, if Ben Askren walked into this room, every single f**king one of those guys would get out of the way and let him walk through.
“The way that Jake Paul talked to him, I have really, really big problems with. When he was saying Ben wasn’t able to talk about fighting like that’s the stuff I’m talking about.”
Smith has no problem that Paul is making money hand over fist but that doesn’t mean he gets to demean athletes who put in years of service to prove themselves as legitimate fighters.
“As far as the business in the game, the way that he’s generating interest and the financial part of it and the marketing part of it, Jake Paul’s doing a phenomenal job,” Smith said. “And I don’t expect him to fight world champion boxers or event UFC top five or top 10 ranked guys, who can strike. I don’t expect him to be able to do that cause he just hasn’t been in the game long enough and that’s not his fault. I think he’s approaching it the right way. I think he takes it very serious. I think he trains really hard. I think he really puts the work in.
“It’s the same reason I stuck up for CM Punk the whole time. I think everyone has the right to get punched in the face for money if that’s what they want to do. I don’t like the disrespect of guys in the game that deserve to be respected.”
One thing Smith will concede, however, is supporting other MMA veterans seeking out a future fight against Paul, especially if they receive the kind of paycheck Askren got for his performance at the Triller Fight Club pay-per-view.
“I hope more guys get those opportunities,” Smith said. “I like the crossover stuff. I think it’s kind of a circus show but it generates interest. The fans like it. I tuned in. I paid for it. I like that kind of stuff.”