Jake Paul talks a big game but he’s always planned on backing it up in the ring.
Despite an outward appearance where he’s constantly brimming with a devil-may-care attitude about his boxing career, the 24-year-old social influencer-turned-fighter fully acknowledges the hesitation to believe he’s taking the sport serious.
After demolishing a fellow YouTube star and an ex-NBA player in his first two professional fights, Paul then made short work of former Bellator and ONE champion and UFC veteran Ben Askren with a brutal one-punch knockout back in April. He then signed for his next fight against ex-UFC welterweight king Tyron Woodley in what will undoubtedly be his biggest test to date.
While he’s quick to brush off criticism, Paul knows he hasn’t walked a typical path to combat sports stardom but he’s happy to see more and more people become believers as he marches forward with his career.
“I understand, there was a lot of critics at first,” Paul said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “People like yourself who were unsure and that’s totally OK. My goal has just been to earn people’s respect and just show people how hard I’m working because I take this more seriously honestly than a lot of pro fighters. I have a chip on my shoulder. I have a lot to prove and I fell in love with this sport and I want to go super, super far in it and the only way to do that is hard work and experience in sparring and in the gym and fighting tougher and tougher opponents each time.
“This is my life now. I don’t even remember what my life was like before boxing. It’s been two years straight of this and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Perhaps the biggest argument against Paul’s resume at 3-0 so far is the lack of competition from actual boxers with past experience. As he prepares for his fourth fight, Paul still hasn’t prepared for an opponent with a boxing background but he’s quick to point out that both Askren and Woodley have been mixed martial arts champions in major organizations.
They may not have boxing credentials but Paul can easily point out that many future champions start out fighting completely overmatched competition to pad a record and pick up a few highlight-reel wins along the way.
The difference for “The Problem Child” is that he’s looking to sell millions of pay-per-views while simultaneously getting experience in the ring, which is why he’s seeking out tough, high-profile opposition like Woodley, a former UFC champion.
“Most pro boxers build up their records. Their promoters build up their records,” Paul said. “They throw them in there with tomato cans so they get experience and they get knockouts so it looks good on their record and by the way no one’s really watching those early fights. They’re not selling tons of pay-per-views. The critics aren’t judging them, They’re just letting them do their thing but with me it’s all eyes on since day one.
“I’m being treated like a world champion with the pressure and who people want me to fight. I embrace it. But I somewhat agree. I want to continue to fight harder and harder people each time and I want to make my fights bigger and bigger each time. It’s a little bit different of a journey. I’m definitely being held to a higher standard but I think that’s helped me become a better fighter because I feel as if I have to live up to that higher standard.”
In his fight on Aug. 29, Paul is putting all of his effort into beating Woodley, who he has repeatedly called his toughest opponent to date without question.
As much as he’s ramped up the trash talk whenever mentioning Woodley’s name since the fight first got booked, Paul isn’t cutting any corners in his preparation because one bad mistake could cost him dearly.
“I know that [he’s my toughest opponent],” Paul said. “That’s why Aug. 29, I have to be super, super sharp. People forget that boxing is the first form of martial arts. When the bell rings in MMA, it’s two guys standing on their feet. It’s a skill that Tyron’s been practicing way longer than I have.
“However, I believe in my ability, I believe in my skill and just my natural talents. You’re either born with speed and knockout power or you’re not. I just so happen to have that. That’s why I know no matter happens, no matter how good Tyron is on Aug. 29, I’m going to still go in there and get the ‘W.’ He is serious and we’ve taken him more serious than any opponent thus far.”
Woodley will set foot in the boxing ring for the first time but his combat sports credentials are unquestioned as he is widely regarded as one of the greatest welterweight champions in UFC history.
Of course, the now 39-year-old mixed martial artist is coming off four straight losses to end his UFC career including a trio of performances where Woodley spent more time on his back or backed up against the cage than he did throwing punches at his opponents.
For his part, Paul doesn’t care much whether the best or worst Woodley makes an appearance because he fully expects to collect his head either way.
“I expect him to start slow and to try and feel me out and to take me into the later rounds or at least try to,” Paul said about his expectations for Woodley. “To be on his back foot, moving away, seeing my game plan. I think you’re going to see a less aggressive guy who is going to try to find my mistakes and take the fight into the later rounds. Because he probably thinks in his head that will help him because of his experience or conditioning or I don’t know. I just see that being how he’s fighting, just sort of backing up.
“I’m a real killer in there. So I’m going to try to hunt him down and get him out of there regardless if he’s coming forward. If he’s coming forward, he’s going to get walked into shots. If he’s on his back foot, I’m a hunter and I can go get him. So I can fight both ways, which is great.”
In the press conference to announce the fight, Paul convinced Woodley to accept a bet against him where the loser would get the winner’s name tattooed on them.
Considering his prediction, Paul expects Woodley to get some unwelcome ink on his body after Sunday night and it sounds like he’s even willing to help him out.
“I have a tattoo artist coming to the fight,” Paul revealed. “When he loses, I’m sending her right into his locker room to get the tattoo going cause I want no excuses out of him. He’s a man. He shook on it in front of the world. He has to live up to it.”