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Morning Report - Anthony Smith: Jake Paul really cares about fighter pay: ‘He’s already pulled money out of his own pocket’

Jake Paul v Tyron Woodley - Press Conference Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, the biggest story in MMA has been the escalation of Jake Paul’s feud with Dana White and the UFC. It all began when Paul knocked out Tyron Woodley in their boxing rematch last month, after which Paul told White he had “embarrassed your whole company” and then called for White to allow him to box some of the UFC’s biggest stars. A couple of weeks later, White responded to Paul, flatly refusing his request and then issuing a challenge to Paul to submit to random drug testing. Paul then kicked the New Year off by countering White’s challenge, saying he would retire from boxing and compete in the UFC - and thus be subjected to their drug testing policies - if White would raise fighter pay and commit to providing long-term health care for UFC fighters, a challenge White functionally ignored, reiterating his first challenge to Paul and then lambasting Paul’s manager, the former CFO of the UFC, Nakisa Bidarian.

With the battle lines now clearly drawn between Paul and White, and this war of words showing no signs of stopping, many in the MMA community are wondering whether Paul’s interest in bettering fighter pay and benefits is genuine or whether he’s just trying to leverage this feud for his own ends, and according to at least one MMA luminary, the answer is the former.

“I think he’s being honest,” Anthony Smith said Sirius XM’s Fight Nation. “I think he actually does care. Here’s the deal, we’ve had these movements where people talk about fighter pay and blah, blah, blah - it’s always people that it benefits, and I’m not meaning just fighters. In the history of the sport we’ve had people come from the outside and they want to seem like they’re some savior and they’re gonna come in and they’re gonna save us and help us, but at the end of the day, every single one of those guys has had their own endgame. Jake Paul has nothing to gain here, so I think do believe it, it does sound genuine, because it’s a pain in the ass. It’s hard to do and he’s still attacking it. He’s continually bringing it up for months and months and he’s not letting it go.”

Smith is certainly right in that Paul has been banging this particular drum for some time now, even donating $5,000 to Sarah Alpar back in June who had set up a GoFundMe to help cover her expenses while waiting to compete in the UFC ; however, the question still remains as to why Paul is doing so in the first place as ultimately nothing will come of it. White isn’t going to upend his business model to shut up Paul and Paul has no desire to compete in the UFC for the simple fact that he can make substantially more money promoting his own fights. So again, other than keeping his name in the headlines, what is in this for Paul? And for Smith, the answer is simple enough, Paul genuinely cares about the fighters and about taking on White.

“I think when you reach a certain level of success yourself - Jake Paul has more money than he’ll ever need,” Smith said. “He’s got more opportunity. He’s got his YouTube channel, he’s got this boxing thing, he can continue to just fight bums and make fat checks and leave everyone else alone and not ruffle any feathers and just do his own thing but I think he actually cares, and he’s shown that.

“Even when he fought Tyron (Woodley) the first time and gave Tyron that little bump in pay. He took some of his money and gave it back to the other fighters so those guys got paid. The easiest way to see if someone’s being true an honest is are they willing to put their money where their mouth is, and he’s already pulled money out of his own pocket and given it to other people. He’s done the same thing with Amanda Serrano. ... He seems to be very genuine and I think he’s just taking it on because he’s good and you do see people, extremely wealthy people that do that. They don’t have a whole lot of problems in their life, they’ve got it all figured out, they’ve got the money, the opportunities, the riches, the fame, the cars, the watches. Like, what else does Jake Paul have to do other than take on some seemingly impossible task? And he’s getting a lot of media in the process.”

The UFC’s payment of fighters has been a hot-button issue for many years now, with fighters collectively earning between 15 and 22 percent of the UFC’s revenue annually. Even over the past couple of years which has seen White boast about how well the UFC has done, that percentage is thought to have remained roughly the same. Perhaps Paul’s dogged pursuit of changing things for the better will ultimately have some effect. Even if it doesn’t though, Paul’s willingness to put the issue in the spotlight is already earning him fans within the MMA community.


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Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.



Will all this noise from Jake Paul do anything to get the UFC to start paying fighters more?

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