During his rise to fame as one of the most talked about boxers in the sport, Jake Paul has made a few friends and plenty of enemies along the way but perhaps none more fierce than UFC president Dana White.
The 24-year-old Ohio native has made it his personal business to take shots at White and the UFC primarily over the way that the fighters are compensated. Following his knockout win over UFC veteran Ben Askren back in April, Paul directed his criticism at White while saying “maybe it’s time to pay your fighters their fair share? No wonder they all want to get into boxing.”
The back-and-forth between the fighter and promoter has continued ever since but according to Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza, the subject about mixed martial artists being paid their worth isn’t just some marketing scam that Paul is using to stir up interest and gain attention.
In fact, Espinoza knows that Paul is serious about his issues regarding fighter pay in the UFC in particular and this isn’t just some ploy to draw White into a war of words.
“So many of the posts, if he wanted to establish a rivalry with Dana White, then he would do that,” Espinoza explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “He and Conor [McGregor] have gone back and forth and they have their own personal rivalry.
“But if you look closely at what Jake is saying and doing, yeah, some of it is sort of directed at Dana but it’s directed at Dana as someone who has influence over the pay scale and the business model. What Jake is really talking about repeatedly is the business model, is the pay scale, is fighter pay.”
As proof that Paul is legitimately concerned about fighter compensation, Espinoza doesn’t have to look any further than the undercard for the upcoming show where “The Problem Child” will take on ex-UFC champion Tyron Woodley in the main event.
According to Espinoza, Paul was personally involved in the negotiations when it came to the talent being added to the event as well as insuring that the fighters were paid properly for their services.
“I’ll tell you something behind the scenes and I’ve never had it happen quite this way,” Espinoza revealed. “Jake when we’re putting together the card and we’re working with the promoter and his advisor Nakisa [Bidarian], Jake made it a point to ask what are each fighter making? Are the women’s fighters, are those fighters being paid appropriately? Are the other fighters, the people we’re bringing over from the U.K., are they being paid appropriately?
“So I know this is a personal issue. I see it first hand when there’s no cameras around. The only person I’ve seen that from is Floyd [Mayweather] and Floyd took a very active role in everything that happened on his card. Jake in particular is involved in everything but you can tell he is concerned about making sure the compensation is fair.”
In addition to Paul’s own issues with fighter pay, a lot has also been made about Woodley’s comments just after he signed onto crossover into boxing that he was making more for this upcoming fight than any other bout when he was competing in the UFC.
White has disputed Woodley’s claims while saying “they’re all full of sh*t” when it comes to his compensation for the fight, especially when compared to what he made for some of his biggest fights in the UFC.
While Woodley’s paycheck hasn’t been revealed, Espinoza knows from past conversations with both him and his management team that this will be the biggest salary he’s ever received for a fight, which speaks to a larger issue about compensation when comparing the top fighters in boxing to their counterparts in MMA.
“It certainly does [say a lot],” Espinoza said. “I think there are some people out there who dismissed Tyron’s claim as something for marketing. That wasn’t said, Tyron didn’t make that comment to market the event. That doesn’t sell pay-per-views. He made that comment because it’s true. I’ve talked to him about it, I’ve talked to Malki [Kawa] about it and they all confirmed it is a career high payday. He is getting a guarantee that is more than he’s ever made before.
“That does say something. It says something about the business model that Jake has and it says something about sort of the business model of boxing versus MMA where there’s more of a tradition of the fighters taking home the lion’s share of the money.”