Are You Not Entertained? – The Jake Paul Effect on Combat Sports

The venue is the Desert Diamond Arena in Phoenix. The event: YouTube star turned boxer Jake Paul vs UFC legend Anderson Silva. It’s the last of the eight rounds, and Paul sends another mixed martial arts veteran to the canvas with a big right hand.

Paul, 25, would go on to win the fight on points and take his boxing career to 6-0, which includes the scalps of three ex-UFC fighters – Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and now the 47-year-old Silva.

“It’s a surreal moment. Hard work pays off,” Paul said after the fight.

Love him or hate him, ‘The Problem Child’ is hard to ignore in the combat sports world, but is this boxing or just entertainment? Paul has been criticised by many fans, pundits, and fighters alike for not competing against a true boxer in their prime.

After stopping fellow YouTuber AnEsonGib in the first round of his boxing debut, Paul went on to knock out professional basketball player Nate Robinson. He then set his sights on MMA fighters who are undeniably in the twilight of their careers. He may have knocked out Askren and Woodley and defeated one of the greatest combat sports athletes of all time in Silva, but the general consensus among fans and fighters doesn’t seem to have changed: Fight a professional boxer your own age and until then, the jury is out. 

To his credit he has tried to do this, but bouts against Hasim Rahman Jr. and Tommy Fury fell apart. It’s unclear whether Paul will pursue a fight against a legitimate boxer again any time soon though as he is now interested in a bout against another former UFC star and fan favourite Nate Diaz.

To some, the idea that he hasn’t faced true competition in the ring doesn’t matter. They will argue that this is ultimately good for boxing, as these fights are potentially bringing in new, young fans to the sport. The events are big spectacles, Jake Paul is an internet celebrity and entertainer after all, and fighters who deserve big pay days are getting just that.

The argument against Paul’s venture however is that he is making a mockery of this great sport. The older mixed martial artists he is targeting who have given their literal blood, sweat and tears to combat sports their entire lives are taking more needless damage and risking much more than just defeat.

Even the harshest critics cannot deny that Jake Paul is talented. An internet celebrity he may be, but it is evident that he trains hard and takes boxing seriously. He has skill, power and seems to be improving all the time. Even at 47 years of age, Silva is no slouch, and the fight was close. Unanswered questions surround Paul though, such as will he ever fight an authentic boxer and how will he perform? Will he continue to improve and what are his long-term goals?

Whatever the answers to these questions may be, one thing is for sure: Jake Paul’s rise has had a massive impact on the world of combat sports, and whether you are a fan of boxing, MMA or both, right now he cannot be ignored.

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