Jake Paul hasn’t had a quiet moment to think.
In between traveling to Miami to watch his older brother Logan fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. In June, training in Puerto Rico for a fight on Sunday and stirring controversy on social media, Paul has been busy. He hasn’t had time to review his grasp of martial arts since he took to boxing in 2018 or how he’s changed the landscape since then.
“I think sometimes it’s good when you think, but sometimes it’s bad,” Paul said in an interview. “So now, I’m just head down. The train is going 100 miles an hour and I’m not slowing down for anyone.’
In just three fights, Paul, 24, has transformed from a novice to a head, albeit controversially, draw. Hard-core fans despise his ascent, some claim his huge social media following and celebrity — rather than years of traditionally hard work — gave him his way into the ring.
He also has enemies in the mixed martial arts community: Dana White, the president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, and his star Conor McGregor and other prominent fighters have insulted him. Paul said he enjoyed his hostile role, and it’s one he wants to continue.
On Sunday, he takes on Tyron Woodley, the former UFC welterweight champion, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Paul’s hometown, Cleveland. It’s the first of Paul’s multifight contract with Showtime, which will sell the pay-per-view bout for $59.99. The scheduled eight-round boxing match will be contested with a catchweight of 190 pounds.
Woodley, 39, offers Paul his toughest challenge yet as a fighter. But if Paul wins, he said it will be proof that he can compete with top talent.
“I’m going to show that even the highest-ranking people don’t have hands,” said Paul, referring to their fighting skills. “I continue to denounce that. I did it once and I will do it again.”
Paul and his brother lead a new trend in martial arts that blurs the lines between competition, entertainment and spectacle. In June, Logan, 26, fought Mayweather in an eight-round, unsanctioned boxing match at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. The specifics seemed scandalous at first: the elder Paul had only fought professionally once before, while Mayweather, regarded as one of the greatest boxers ever, had a flawless 50-0 record.
But Logan survived to the last bell, against most predictions, and didn’t even fall to the curtain.
Some fans on social media expressed disappointment, claiming the fight was rigged. Mayweather has fought in the past with a defensive, elusive style rather than looking for knockouts, but few expected that even with a weight advantage of nearly 35 pounds, Paul would be able to withstand eight rounds with him.
Still, Paul’s relative boxing acumen probably wasn’t to the point. The battle yielded more than a million pay-per-view purchases, overwhelming Showtime’s servers so drastically that they crashed, forcing the company to offer customers a refund.
“This is a new time, a new era, a new chapter in boxing,” said Paul. “There is a new way of doing things. There are new kids around.”
Paul and his brother made their way through social media, starting with Vine, the now-defunct video-sharing app, and then on to Instagram and YouTube. Jake now has nearly 17 million followers on Instagram. After winning his first professional fight in January 2020, his stock rose rapidly after beating retired NBA player Nate Robinson and retired mixed martial arts fighter Ben Askren, both by knockout. He soon signed a contract with Showtime and planned Woodley, a friend of Askren’s, as his next opponent.
“He hosts exciting events,” Stephen Espinoza, the president of Showtime Sports, said in an interview. “He attracts a lot of attention, drives big business and people find him entertaining, both inside and outside the ring. That’s a recipe for the kind of programming we want to deliver.”
Espinoza said he was skeptical at first, but after a few discussions quickly became warm to the idea of signing Paul. He said he could see Paul’s dedication to boxing, such as his training in Puerto Rico and his knockout prowess. His level of competition increased with each fight, with Woodley posing a legitimate threat.
Woodley first fought the UFC in 2013 and became the 170-pound champion three years later. He defended the belt four times, but had four consecutive losses. He left the promotion this spring after his contract expired, saying he wanted to try a career switch to boxing. After the Askren fight, the matchup with Paul made sense, Woodley said. He started training with Mayweather and said he was excited to focus only on punching rather than all the other mixed martial arts disciplines, such as jiu-jitsu.
“I don’t smoke at the UFC,” Woodley said in an interview. “I was blessed to go there and make a fortune and let the world know who I am. Now it’s time to keep the machine running.”
Tensions between Woodley and Paul mounted after they announced the fight, reaching a head this week when a member of Paul’s entourage insulted Woodley’s mother shortly after a press conference.
It all fuels the Sunday night intrigue. Espinoza said that regardless of the outcome, he expected Paul to continue fighting quality enemies. Paul agreed. On Instagram, he posted a list of potential opponents, including boxer Canelo Alvarez, McGregor and Kamaru Usman, the current UFC welterweight champion. Paul said he doesn’t care who’s next.
“We’ll see who’s ready to sign on the dotted line,” Paul said. “As fast as we can close these deals is as fast as we can get these fights.”