GLENDALE – When an internet sensation and one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters of all time walk into the boxing ring, what will fight fans receive?
A blockbuster show.
YouTube boxing star Jake Paul and UFC legend Anderson Silva provided a preview Thursday, shocking the crowd during their final press conference at Desert Diamond Arena with a unique bet ahead of Saturday’s anticipated fight.
In typical fashion, Paul gave Silva a proposition he couldn’t refuse.
“If you win, I will fight you in an MMA (kickboxing) fight,” Paul told Silva. “But if I win, me and you come together to create a united fighters association to help UFC fighters get better pay and better health care. You become the interim president, and we unite to help these fighters once and for all.”
Silva took little time to mull over the wager. “Deal,” he said.
The crowd cheered, the two fighters shook hands and the deal was indeed done.
But the bet has a backstory. Paul has been on record on multiple occasions slamming UFC commissioner Dana White for mistreating his fighters. While the bet took seconds to make, fighters have fought for years for fair pay and health care after retirement.
Paul has been vocal in press conferences and on social media about the issues surrounding the promotion.
“No major sports organization pays its athletes as poorly as Dana White & UFC,” Paul tweeted Aug. 12. “If u don’t see that then you are one of Dana’s sheeps. They keep talking about selling out 21 events in a row but never talking about raising fighter pay, giving them healthcare & fair revenue split.”
Beginning as an actor and YouTube personality, Paul has jumped out to a 5-0 record in his young boxing career since winning his first professional fight in 2018. Along his short fight journey, he knocked out former NBA guard Nate Robinson and most recently defeated former UFC fighter Tyron Woodley.
Silva is poised to be his toughest opponent to date, despite a 22-year age gap, but he knows what’s at stake.
“The pressure is on,” Paul, 25, said. “I’m the young guy, and he is really really good. The man has more experience. He has the weight, he has the height, he has the reach. So really, the odds are stacked against me.”
Silva, 47, is nearly the polar opposite of Paul. He holds a 34-11-0 overall record and currently holds the longest title reign (from 2006-2013) in UFC history.
Regardless of the fight’s outcome, Silva believes his legacy will remain intact.
“I don’t think that this affects nothing in my legacy,” Silva said. “In my journey in combat sports, I have tried my best to give something to the next generation, and Jake and I want to put the two generations together. People think that this will affect my legacy and Jake’s legacy, but I don’t believe that.”
While the perspectives around Paul and Silva will largely remain unchanged after Saturday, the fight carries more meaning than an ordinary fight. The two are set to face off in what has the potential to be the best fight of the year.
“I think it’s big for the sport of boxing. I think it’s big for the sport of MMA,” award-winning journalist Ariel Helwani said. “It’s really interesting to see both of them coming together. It’s like the new school versus the old school. Anderson is a living legend. He doesn’t have a lot of fights left, so we have to appreciate him while he’s still here.
“And I’ve worked the first two Jake Paul fights and those were really special and just there’s like a real interesting buzz in the air when he fights so I’m really looking forward to it. I have no idea how this is going to play out. But I can’t wait to see.”
Paul may have his own boxing career to worry about, but his focus is on all fighters across the sports around the world.
Paul not only wants to make an impact on the sport of boxing with his fists but hopes to assist boxers beyond their fights in the ring.
“These fighters should be covered for retirement for all the amazing things they have done for the sport, just like in all the other leagues,” Paul said. “These athletes get some sort of pension for retirement if they play a certain amount of time. The champions who are improving the sport should be able to retire and not have to worry about whatever it is they are going to do.”