Jake Paul claims his recent attack on UFC president Dana White and the promotion’s business practices are altruistic. The YouTuber turned boxer claimed on his New Year’s Day Twitter post, “You (UFC fighters) deserve higher pay, you deserve long term healthcare and above all you deserve freedom. Support each other. I am not your enemy, I am your advocate…” I don’t buy what Paul is selling. I think his attacks on White are selfish and that he is seeking the spotlight, but I also don’t think that’s (entirely) a bad thing.
Paul didn’t break any news when he pointed out that the base pay for UFC fighters is $12,000 or that UFC fighters don’t get anywhere near 50 percent of the UFC revenue — like other sports with collective bargaining agreements share with the athletes. He didn’t stun anyone by saying the UFC doesn’t provide fighters — who are not employees, but independent contractors — with long-term healthcare. However, Paul accomplished a few things with his Tweet.
First, he drew White into his world and got White to offer a response that didn’t address any of the issues that Paul brought up. That’s an L for White and the UFC. Instead of trying to dispute Paul’s claims, White did what he often does when backed into a corner, he lashed out and made things personal — insulting Paul and his manager. While that type of bluster might work on some, it didn’t work on Paul, who correctly pointed out that White, “…addressed nothing that I said.”
More importantly, Paul’s tweet got an enormous amount of media coverage. Some of that coverage was from outlets that normally wouldn’t cover something like the UFC’s business practices. With that, Paul elevated the conversation beyond the MMA/sports bubble. That’s a good thing. If Paul continues to focus on the business of the UFC and avoids making it personal with White, he might spur a non-MMA or non-sports journalist to dig into the UFC business practices.
Do I think that will happen? No. Because I don’t believe Paul’s claim that he is a friend or an advocate to the UFC fighters.
I want to be wrong on that point.
There are a few ways Paul could convince me he cares about the UFC fighters, their pay and their health. The first is to avoid the personal attacks on White. If Paul can focus on the business — and he has access to some smart people who can help him do that — and avoid rolling around in the name-calling mud with White than he can take the upper hand in the situation — he can appear to be the “bigger” man, someone who needs only facts and figures to make his point.
Another way for Paul to convince me he cares about the fighters is to offer solutions other than “I will immediately retire from boxing.” As John Nash wrote on Twitter, “What gives it away that Paul just does this for the attention is that he doesn’t offer real solutions. If he was serious he’d be calling Quarry, Fitch or Le & asking how he can help get the Ali Expansion passed or offering to financially assist anyone contesting UFC contracts.”
It wouldn’t be hard for Paul to reach out to someone involved with UFC antitrust lawsuit and get up to speed on the suit and bring that into his attacks on White and the UFC.
By no means do I think it’s a bad thing that Paul is making waves when it comes to the UFC’s business practices, but I also don’t think it’s anything but self-serving and self-promotion.
I hope Jake Paul proves me wrong. If he does, I will happily apologize.