For all the ways Jake Paul might consider himself a professional disruptor, he might be the most proud of the noise he’s made over fighter pay in combat sports.
The YouTube celebrity turned boxer has been a particular thorn in the side of UFC president Dana White in recent months as he’s taken every public platform available to him and used it to complain about the treatment of fighters competing in the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in the world.
When UFC fighter Sarah Alpar started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her training camp, Paul donated $5,000 towards her goal. He’s also witnessed fighters like Contender Series veteran Cheyanne Buys openly admit to having a zeroed out bank account ahead of her second fight with the UFC not to mention middleweight contender Jared Cannonier declaring “I’m broke” after he just earned a win in a UFC main event.
Thanks to Paul’s long reach on social media, he’s suddenly become the loudest voice advocating for better fighter pay, especially when it comes to the UFC, and it’s not just lip service to him. In fact, he’s putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to the salaries for the fighters competing on his undercard when he faces ex-UFC champ Tyron Woodley on Aug. 29 in Cleveland on FITE TV pay-per-view.
“It’s something that I’m bullish on and something that needs to change,” Paul told MMA Fighting. “For my fight, while we were building out the undercard, I was like we need to make sure that this fight, these fighters, every single person on the card gets paid the most that they’ve ever gotten paid to fight.
“I just want to spread the wealth and be about my words and put action behind my words and be the change instead of just talking about the change.”
In many ways, Paul feels like it’s become his duty to continue going after White and the UFC for how much fighters are being paid in the promotion because he believes many of the athletes are too scared of the potential repercussions to speak out for themselves.
With the majority of professional athletes in other sports represented by a player’s union, the UFC fighters have no such protection and they are still regarded as independent contractors rather than employees, which also strips away some of their rights.
Paul understands how frustrating that must be, which is why he’s taken it upon himself to continue agitating White at every turn when it comes to the salaries fighters are being paid in the UFC.
“Look, the UFC fighters can’t talk about it,” Paul said. “They can’t advocate for fighter pay because Dana White will just shelf them and a lot of the times it’s the same situation with boxing promoters who sign some of these young stars and lock them up in super long contracts.
“But I see how hard fighting is, I see how hard fighters work. The fact that it’s so skewed versus any other sport and it’s the most dangerous sport out of all of them, there needs to be a change there. I’m actually starting to affect Dana White’s business.”
Since Paul became a name in combat sports as a boxer and taken shots at the UFC president, White has routinely fired back including his support for Ben Askren ahead of his fight against the 24-year-old Ohio native as well as recently saying the shelf life for the social influencer will be “very f*cking short.”
In response, Paul only needs to see how irritated White gets whenever his name is brought up to know that his strategy is working.
“He talks about me way more than I talk about him,” Paul said about White. “A lot of times I’ll just be minding my business and then all of a sudden there’s like a whole new interview that comes out where he’s talking about me. I’m definitely in his head because before when we were talking, it was just random back and forth but now I’m actually affecting his business and they don’t like that.
“Those are big wig guys with a lot of power who are very greedy and they will do anything to get to the top. They have gotten to the top but they want more. They always want more. That’s how these billionaire sharks are. They will kill and eat everyone in their path to put more money into their bank accounts. I’m in his head, I’m affecting his pockets and he doesn’t like that.”
Long term, the UFC fighters are ultimately going to be responsible for the battle for better pay but Paul promises he will continue to support mixed martial artists however possible.
While his personal focus remains on boxing, Paul acknowledges that he’d gladly welcome the inclusion of MMA fights on one of his upcoming undercards and he’ll battle for them the same way he did the athletes competing alongside him on Aug. 29.
“I think that’s the future of fighting,” Paul explained. “I think it’s maybe mixing MMA and boxing, all into one night. I think if you’re a fan of boxing, you’re probably most likely a fan of MMA. I know there are some people who are split and stuck on each side but I’m a total fight fan all the way around the board. From boxing to MMA to bare-knuckle, so I definitely see that as a possibility.
“I think that would be something super dope and because I’m partnered with Showtime and Stephen Espinoza, we can throw a sick Bellator fight or something, there’s lots of ways to get creative there.”