If there’s one fight this April that seems to have really captured the imagination of combat sports fans, it’s Ben Askren vs. Jake Paul. The pseudo-celebrity boxing match between the former Bellator & ONE champion and the YouTube personality is the latest offering from the upstart Triller boxing promotion that put together the shockingly successful exhibition bout between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. last fall.
On the undercard of that event, Paul beat former NBA point guard Nate Robinson in a pro bout scheduled for six rounds. Paul finished Robinson in the second, and after the bout called out several MMA fighters—including Ben Askren. Askren was quick to accept the the challenge and, while negotiations appeared to go through a few fits and starts, the two men are now set to meet in the coming weeks.
Ahead of the fight, former UFC champion and current ONE Championship title holder Demetrious Johnson gave his thoughts on the bout. After hemming and hawing a bit over the two men’s combat sports resumes, ‘Mighty’ ended up with one distinct takeaway: if he had to make a bet, that bet would be on Jake Paul.
“I’m not discounting Ben Askren out of this fight,” Johnson said, on a recent appearance with MMA Fighting’s What the Heck podcast. “But if somebody came to me and said, ‘Demetrious Johnson, here’s $1 million, who are you putting the money on? You have to f-ckin bet, if you don’t bet, I’m taking the $1 million with me,’ well, f-ck, I’m throwing it on Jake Paul. I think he’s gonna win the fight. If I don’t bet, I’m gonna lose it anyways so I’ll go ahead and bet on Jake Paul.”
All that said, Johnson admitted that he’s a “big fan” of Askren, and loves the way he handles himself on social media. And while he isn’t picking Askren to get the win, he’d love to see him pull out the victory on behalf of all the wrestlers out there.
“I want Ben Askren to win,” Johnson said. “I hope he wins because he comes from my line of sport. He’s a wrestler taking on a YouTube star. But when I look at it, I’m like, dude, Jake Paul actually has knockout power. Ben Askren’s been knocked out before so it’s not like it can’t happen again.”
The Triller PPV event is also expected to feature a boxing match between former WBA welterweight champion Regis Progais taking on 23-5-1 (1 NC) Ukranian Ivan Redkach. A pro boxing bout between 8-0 millionaire-turned-boxer Joe Fournier and reggaeton artist Reykon (who appears to have no pro or amateur boxing experience) is also expected for the undercard.
A fight between former UFC champion Frank Mir and former multiple time boxing champion Antonio Tarver had been scheduled for the card as well, but Tarver was pulled from the fight and replaced by former IBF cruiserweight champ Steve Cunningham.