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Eddie Hearn: Jake Paul is good for boxing, but ‘a disaster’ for the UFC

Over the last few years, Jake Paul has become one of the most polarizing figures in MMA. After making his professional boxing debut in 2020, and then knocking out former NBA player Nate Robinson, Paul has targeted high-profile MMA fighters for his boxing exploits, and has thus far done exceedingly well.

Last year, Paul knocked out former Bellator champion Ben Askren in April, won a decision over former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in August, and then knocked Woodley out in their rematch in December, all the while courting other MMA stars like Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor, and Jorge Masvidal. It’s a promotional strategy that has kept Paul’s name at the forefront of the two sports, but has also angered many boxers and boxing fans who claim Paul is making a mockery of their sport. But Eddie Hearn, the man who promoted Paul’s first boxing match, thinks “The Problem Child” doesn’t deserve all the criticism he gets.

“I promoted his first fight, two years ago. I started this mess,” Hearn joked Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “I put him in against a YouTuber, and the best way I can describe Jake is, people say to me, ‘Do you like Jake Paul?’ And I say Jake — the terminology is different in the U.K. — plunker, grade-A plunker, dipstick. But I like him. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. Half the time, I think he’s on a wind up. You know what I mean? Like, we were doing a media scrum today and he was talking about fighting Canelo, and I’m looking at him going, ‘Are you just laughing inside?’ And I think it’s a little bit of both.

“I think fighters, because of what they’ve sacrificed, sometimes hold it against Jake Paul and say, ‘Well, I’ve been grinding in the gym for 15 years!’ Yeah, but you’re not good enough and you haven’t built the profile that he’s built. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to do that? He’s put in the work in the gym. He’s fallen in love with the sport, genuinely, and I think he’s good for boxing. I think he brings a different kind of audience.”

Yet while Paul is attempting to shake up the boxing industry in some regards, the former Disney Channel star is doing nothing short of going to war with MMA, specifically the UFC. For months, Paul has engaged in a coordinated barrage of attacks against Dana White over fighter pay and healthcare. Just this past week, Paul released a diss track targeting White. It was, according to Hearn, a prime example of how not to interact with Paul.

“I think he’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but you can’t start arguing with him, as Dana’s found out,” Paul said. “That diss track is outrageous. I thought it was really good. I like both guys, but I did watch it and go [covers his mouth], ‘What time’s the legal letter coming?’ But it’s kind of good in that you can never take life too seriously, and in that instance, I say they’re both good for each other.

“Dana would have been fuming. He should never have gone back to Jake Paul. It’s the last thing you do — do a video addressing Jake Paul. Just don’t do it. Just leave it. But isn’t it what we want? We want views, we want interest, we want drama, we want confrontation, we want hype, we want narrative. That’s our jobs, isn’t it? So I think they compliment each other in that respect.”

Dana White may not agree, though. The issues Paul has raised with the UFC regarding fighter pay, restrictive contracts, and health benefits are not new in the sport, however, Paul does not appear to be losing interest in his vendetta. Recently, Paul claimed that he had invested in Endeavor, the UFC’s parent company, with the intent of using his ownership rights to lobby for better fighter pay, and Paul has also said he’s looking at other avenues towards fighter empowerment, along with potentially starting a fighters’ union.

With the platform Paul possesses, Hearn says that he could be a real problem for the UFC if things stay the same.

“There will be more pressure on the organization as time goes by, especially with the voice and noise of someone like Jake Paul,” Hearn said. “Jake Paul’s a disaster for those guys. [He is sincere], but also I think he’s got a bee in his bonnet and he’s having fun with it, and I think he’s on a mission. But do I think he feels that UFC fighters are underpaid? Yeah, for sure.”

Paul and Hearn are set to co-promote the upcoming lightweight title fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano that figures to be the biggest fight in women’s boxing history on April 30 at Madison Square Garden.