Jake Paul, everyone’s favorite (least favorite?) YouTuber-turned-fighter, has been making moves lately.
On January 5, Paul announced he had signed a contract with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), delivering on a long-awaited promise to transition his career into mixed martial arts. The 25-year-old former Disney star made his rise to fame as a YouTube vlogger with over 20 million subscribers before pivoting to a boxing career. He’s now 6-0 as a pro boxer, boasting wins over UFC veterans Tyron Woodley and Anderson Silva.
Whether folks want to admit it or not, Paul’s brash personality and success in the ring have altered the combat sports landscape. PFL is wise to team up with Paul, as the promotion is seeking the eyeballs it needs to elevate itself into the next tier of fighting organizations.
Here’s how Paul signing with PFL will work, and why his big announcements could shake up the MMA (and UFC) landscape.
What is Jake Paul’s Role With PFL?
Paul has joined forces with PFL to tackle a few issues.
Let’s get real. PFL did not sign Paul because of his talents inside the cage. As I said before, this is about getting attention and sucking more fight fans into PFL viewership. That’s fine, and Paul seems to understand this transparent arrangement.
In his intro video, Paul stated his intentions to serve as “head of fighter advocacy,” using his platform to market fighters and increase fighter pay. How sweet of him. I’m skeptical about how Paul plans to increase fighter pay, though PFL does have a stronger base for athlete pay – PFL famously awards $1 million to winners of its World Championship Tournament.
Ultimately, transparency is key. I’d like to see Paul and the promotion make all fighter salaries transparent and available to the public, unlike UFC’s shady ways of disguising contract terms.
And, what’s a Paul video without a few shots at UFC president Dana White? The two have a long-standing feud (initiated mostly by Paul), which means the ongoing discussion about fighter pay should turn up the heat in ole’ Uncle Dana’s kitchen.
PPV Super Fight Division
Paul announced himself as a fighter on the roster but also a co-founder of the PFL “Pay-Per-View Super Fight” division. What will actually go down in this division is a mystery. I mean, if you’re a promotion battling UFC and Bellator for views, why not craft every fight with “Super Fight” status instead of pigeonholing all your stars into one division? Probably because this is a ploy to make sure your darling celebrity fighters don’t get mangled by legitimate martial artists.
The current Super Fight division roster now consists of one man: Paul himself. My gut tells me we’ll see the celebrities – or popular athletes who are high on clicks and low on talent – funneled into this division. We’ll see how this goes.
50/50 Revenue Split Between Fighters, Promoters
This is the kicker. Paul promised a 50/50 revenue split in the Super Fight division between fighters and promoters, adding that fighters will also be able to initiate their own sponsorships. UFC, as Paul happily points out, no longer allows fighters to wear sponsors of their choosing in the Octagon.
Time will tell if Paul and PFL can deliver. Fighters are refreshingly candid with the media, especially if they’re not given what they were promised. If Paul cheats a fighter out of a revenue split, the public will find out.
Is the Growth Of PFL A Threat To UFC?
UFC is the pound-for-pound king of international mixed martial arts (the promotion earned a reported $2 billion in 2021). At this point, it’s a battle between PFL and Bellator for second on the podium.
At the end of the day, fighters make or break the quality of a promotion. UFC is No. 1 because its fighters, its champions and its personalities are far more exciting. And, as you might expect, some of the more popular fighters in PFL and Bellator are ex-UFC athletes.
The 50/50 revenue split is key to PFL’s success (though PFL tried out its first pay-per-view event in 2022, which ESPN was reportedly happy with). Perhaps the concept of a $1-million tournament and an even-money share prompts fighters to jump ship. Of course, the format of PFL could also be a big draw. American sports viewers are accustomed to the traditional season-playoffs-championship format, and, admittedly, I love the continuity of driving that setup into MMA.
PFL is on the cusp. If someone such as heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou, who is openly unhappy with his UFC deal, hops to PFL, we could see an avalanche of stars that follow.
Will Jake Paul Actually Fight in PFL?
It sure sounds like he will. Paul has long stated his intentions to switch to MMA. Jake and his brother Logan were wrestlers in high school, so there’s a chance this transition isn’t as wild as it seems.
Clearly, Paul has respectable striking form and good fight instincts, so he should be good to stand and fight. But the nuances, especially on the ground, take years to develop in mixed martial arts. Jiu-jitsu, for example, isn’t something you learn overnight. PFL will need to be clever with its matchmaking.
Jake Paul Potential Opponents
So, who could Paul fight first?
With Diaz, one of the biggest names in UFC history, officially a free agent, many promotions have tried to court him. Paul claims PFL has offered Diaz a two-fight contract in the Super Fight division, first a bout in boxing and then MMA (a convenient order, given Paul would win in the ring).
Diaz hasn’t responded, so we’ll see how far it goes. Right now, the odds for a Diaz vs Paul fight are as follows:
I love this idea way more than a Paul vs Diaz bout. Sure, Paul knocked Askren out of his shoes during the first round of a 2021 boxing match, but MMA is different. Askren was arguably the worst striker in UFC history, so the playing field should even once we introduce wrestling and submissions.
At 38, Askren is older and out of shape, but maybe a grudge match vs Paul brings him back into the cage.