Anthony Smith admits his opinion on Jake Paul has changed a lot since the social influencer decided to transition into boxing, but that doesn’t mean he gives “The Problem Child” any chance whatsoever in an actual MMA fight against somebody as skilled as Conor McGregor.
As Paul has continued to criticize the UFC’s business practices in recent months, led in part by his major issues with fighter pay, he’s made several proposals to cross over to MMA as long as company president Dana White concedes to a list of demands.
Regardless of whether the UFC will ever actually even consider that proposition, Paul has stated rather adamantly that he’s confident he’d tear through McGregor inside the octagon, even going so far as to predict a devastating finish against the Irishman.
“Conor is on a downhill spiral,” Paul told TMZ. “His limbs are all broken. So, stand-up game, I’m coming out and knocking him out, first round.”
For all the ways that Smith has warmed up to Paul, the one-time UFC title challenger can’t help but laugh at the idea that a 25-year-old novice without a single day of real MMA experience would beat any veteran, much less an ex-champion of two UFC divisions like McGregor.
“First of all, Conor’s half his size right now,” Smith said on MMA Fighting’s The Fighter vs. The Writer. “People do miss that. Jake’s a big dude and he’s fighting short, stocky, wrestler welterweights. Jake Paul’s my size. He’s a big goddamn dude. He’s way north of 200 pounds. Him fighting Conor in a boxing match, that would probably be a pretty good fight, to be honest with you. But is he going to knock him out in an MMA fight? No. Not when Conor gets kicking — he’s going to kick Jake Paul’s head right off his shoulders.
“People say that Jake can wrestle a little bit so [he] might be able to keep it a little bit competitive for a minute or so. But no, in an MMA fight, he’s going to get barbecued.”
In many ways, Smith has come to respect Paul for what he’s done thus far in a young boxing career that’s seen him amass a perfect 5-0 record with four knockouts.
Even when he scoffed at many of Paul’s more outrageous statements, Smith never had a problem with the 25-year-old Ohio native going out and making a massive paycheck for his exploits in the ring.
“I’ve come around on Jake a little bit, too, to be honest with you,” Smith said. “I still think he’s kind of a douchebag, but it’s OK to be a douchebag. He’s not my type of dude. I’m not sure he and I could hang out and be friends. If he’s truly out here trying to help people and get pay up — and it seems like he’s going into his own pocket to help people on his own shows and stuff — I have a hard time knocking that.
“I’ve always said, I don’t have any problem with him making money. If you can get it, get it. I think everyone has the right to compete if they want to. I’ve always stuck up for him and said that he has the right to compete. He has a right to be here. He has a place at the table.”
As far as Paul’s boxing skills, Smith is actually rather complimentary towards him, especially after watching him spend some real time in the ring, including his eight-round decision over ex-UFC champion Tyron Woodley. Paul then returned for a rematch and demolished Woodley with a brutal knockout that closed that rivalry in emphatic fashion.
“He trains hard, he takes it very serious,” Smith said about Paul. “He busts his ass. He’s not as bad as people want to pretend. I got a lot of s*** from the very beginning of this. Every fighter you talk to [says], ‘That dude sucks, he can’t fight, that dude is s***,’ and from the very beginning I said, ‘I don’t think so. I think he’s OK.’
“Is he going to beat anyone [who] I super respect their skills and abilities? Right now, no. But he’s a pretty skilled, really heavy-handed amateur, in my opinion. That dude can f****** fight. People hate him so much, they forget that.”
If Paul ever gets serious about doing MMA, he might be able to put his boxing skills to work in the cage, but Smith knows it’s still a real stretch to believe Paul will come to the UFC and beat anybody on the current roster.
Due to his size — Paul stands 6-foot-1 tall and tips the scales around 200 pounds — Smith looks at him more as a light heavyweight or middleweight, and he really doesn’t like his chances to get past any of those fighters, no matter how much training he does to get ready.
“What would Jimmy Crute do to Jake Paul?” Smith said. “Even Devin Clark. Devin Clark would bulldoze that dude and smash him.
“It would last as long as it would take for either one of those guys to walk across the octagon. However long that takes, seven or eight seconds.”
That said, Smith understands why Paul is saying what he’s saying, especially where McGregor is concerned, because that’s the biggest draw in the fight game right now.
“He’s getting headlines, I get it,” Smith said. “He’s playing a game. He’s keeping Conor in his mouth because it’s beneficial to him.”