I want to believe Jake Paul’s battle with the UFC and Dana White is about the UFC fighters more than it is about Jake Paul shining a spotlight on himself. Ahead of Paul’s appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, I had doubts about Paul’s motivation. The YouTuber turned boxer turned fighter’s advocate did not allay any of those fears during his talk with host Ariel Helwani.
Perhaps my biggest issue with Paul’s “feud” with the UFC is that his quarrel is not with the promotion, but with UFC president Dana White. Paul said as much while speaking to Helwani, “Because of our feud, I’m going after him (Dana White).”
If Paul’s goal is to improve UFC fighter pay, he should not be focused on White. Instead, Paul should turn his attention to the UFC. I know there is a perception that White is the UFC, but that perception is not reality, especially now that the UFC is owned by a publicly traded company in Endeavor.
Helwani gave Paul the opportunity to clear up the misconceptions about his efforts, to explain how sincere about his attempts to increase fighter pay. Paul’s response? “You’ll see.”
That’s not good enough. We’ve been hearing Paul talk about UFC fighter pay since April 2021 when Paul wrote, “In my third fight, I made more money in total pay than any fighter in UFC history. Maybe it’s time to pay your fighters their fair share? No wonder they all want to get into boxing. Dana, you say you make the fights the fans want to see, so hurry up and make [Jon] Jones vs. [Francis] Ngannou. Pay them their fair share. $10 million purse for each guy plus pay-per-view.
“Why are UFC fighters so underpaid versus boxers? Why did I make more in my third fight than all but two (Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and Conor [McGregor]) UFC fighters have in history. I know why.”
We’ll see? After more than a year, Paul should have more to offer than “you’ll see” and other half-baked plans.
One of those plans is to purchase Endeavor stock and change things from the inside. Paul told Helwani his investment in the Endeavor stock — which he said was a starting point — is in the “low six figures.” To put that in perspective, the largest holder of Endeavor stock is Silver Lake Group, LLC, which owns 91,976,482 shares that are worth $2,636,965,738 as of this writing.
Paul’s ownership in the UFC is, at this point, of no consequence. Paul compared himself and his team to annoying flies Endeavor has to deal with. With the amount of stock Paul owns, he is more like a fly that is on the outside, trying to find a hole in the screen to get inside the house. Endeavor can and will simply ignore Paul because of the small amount of stock he owns.
Speaking of the diss track Paul released that focused on White and vague plans, Paul said the profits from the song would go to “funds and foundations” that help fighters. He did not name one fund, foundation or organization that would benefit.
That’s the kind of lack of attention to detail that makes me suspicious of Paul’s intentions.
Another thing that makes me worry about how serious Paul is about helping fighters is that he seems to think he can accomplish change without buy-in from UFC fighters.
Paul told Helwani that he has heard from “a lot of fighters” who support him, but that he does not need the support of the fighters.
“I don’t want them to sacrifice,” Paul said. “They have to put food on their family’s table. Like I said earlier, I happen to have a platform to be able to do this. So I accept the responsibility and I’m going to do it. I’ve made that decision. I’m going to war and I’m not backing down no matter what happens. I don’t need the fighters in the UFC to support this.”
Paul is correct that the fighters don’t need to support or endorse his diss track, but if he wants to make any real change regarding fighter pay or the establishment of a possible fighter union — which Paul said is something he and a team of lawyers is working on — he absolutely needs the buy-in of a majority of the UFC fighters.
I’ll give Paul credit for stoking the conversation about UFC fighter pay and keeping the topic in the foreground. However, the UFC is not unfamiliar with hearing about the imbalance between fighter pay and the UFC’s share of the revenue the fighters generate.
The UFC’s response to that condemnation has been to use its bully pulpit to overpower that commentary. That or it simply ignores the critique. With Paul constantly focusing on White (ex: diss track) and not sticking strictly to the big picture of fighter pay, it makes it easier for White to make this about Jake Paul the person and not Jake Paul the advocate.
At this moment, Paul does not have a tangible plan to change things. He has big ideas – I would call them grandiose — but no means to implement them or turn them to reality. I want to support Paul. I want to believe he is going to make a real effort to improve fighter pay. I applaud him for possibly elevating the subject of UFC fighter pay, but as it stands, he’s done little put garner headlines for himself since his feud with Dana White began in April 2021. That needs to change and change soon. If it doesn’t change, Paul will be just another foe White has vanquished with ease.