While the stars of sport and screen were out in full force at this past Saturday night’s UFC 261 event, nobody invoked more of a reaction than Jake Paul.
Paul, fresh off of his first-round KO win over Ben Askren at the Triller Fight Club event earlier this month, was in attendance for the UFC’s return to full capacity at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.
During the preliminary card, a “F*ck Jake Paul” chant broke out in the arena. Former two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier was in the broadcast booth and at the next break in the action, Cormier got up out of his chair and confronted the YouTube star-turned-professional boxer.
Jon Anik, the play-by-play voice for the event, was rejoined by Cormier when the broadcast resumed from commercial break. Anik recounted his memories from the scene that garnered a lot of attention on Saturday night.
“So, if memory serves me correctly, our producer gave ‘DC’ 120 seconds to settle his business,” Anik told MMA Fighting. “Daniel Cormier’s a fighter and, as I’ve texted DC, I like when his Louisiana comes out. It’s an interesting thing because I respect Jake Paul the professional boxer. I would like to see him boxing boxers and not the worst strikers in MMA history, per se, to do something competitive.
“But I’m not surprised Daniel Cormier wants to stand his ground and you’re not going to just inject DC’s name into the mix without consequences. I think he felt at peace after his conversation because he came back to the broadcast booth and not a bead of sweat on his forehead. He said his piece and felt like he needed to do that to clear the air.”
Paul has found himself a niche of creating a storyline of Boxing vs. MMA as his main event win over Askren reportedly generated close to 1.5 million PPV buys for the Triller event. Cormier declined a boxing match with Paul and challenged the 3-0 pro boxer to an MMA fight, which Paul also declined.
In Anik’s eyes, he sees why MMA fighters are looking for the Paul matchup, and he has no ill-will towards the former Disney star for trying to make some extra money. He just wants to see Paul have a real challenge.
“I can understand why some of these mixed martial arts athletes feel the way they do about the way some things are happening in combat sports these days,” Anik explained. “I’m in the business where we have a lot of developing fighters in the UFC, who come in 3-0, 3-1, and I respect those fighters that are maybe No. 650 on the roster that arguably shouldn’t be here right now, but is getting a short notice opportunity.
“For Jake Paul, power to you, man. Make your money. If you don’t like his attitude, I can understand why he isn’t your cup of tea. I’m just asking him not to pluck the worst strikers in UFC history. I mean, is Royce Gracie and Demian Maia gonna be next? You know what I mean? Go fight a striker. If you want to fight a mixed martial artist, go fight a striker. I am interested in Jake Paul in so far as him fighting somebody that is actually focused on the discipline that he is focused on.
“He ain’t fighting DC, he ain’t fighting Tyron Woodley, that’s for damn sure.”
Anik said that he has received a slew of DMs from combat sports fans telling the UFC broadcaster to give Paul his due for taking his training in the boxing world seriously. Anik feels like he has given Paul positive accolades for his ability to create buzz and believes it can be difficult for combat sports fans to look beyond the persona some of these athletes bring to the table, which includes one of the top ranked welterweight fighters in the UFC.
“Sometimes with certain athletes, you can’t get past the facade,” Anik said. “Colby Covington is an outstanding human being. People have no idea how good a dude there is underneath whatever facade there is and, by the way, Covington is also one of the pound-for-pound greatest mixed martial arts athletes that I’ve ever seen, but people can’t get past that.
“With Jake Paul, people don’t want to lean into anything positive. I’m not afraid to do that. Just don’t fight Ben Askren and we’re good.”