Who’s got next? Jake Paul piques interest about next opponent after victory vs. Anderson Silva

Jake Paul defeated Anderson Silva Saturday night at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, moving to a 6-0 record in his young boxing career. (Photo by Grace Edwards/Cronkite News)

GLENDALE – A perfect 6-0. That is now Jake Paul’s professional boxing record after he defeated former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale Saturday night.

But it was speculation about Paul’s next fight that was on everyone’s mind after his victory by unanimous decision.

“Anyone, anytime, any place,” Paul said after dispatching Silva.

Nate Diaz, another former UFC fighter, was evidently ready to test that suggestion Saturday at Desert Diamond.

Diaz wasn’t on the card, but he attended the fight and sparked a behind-the-scenes altercation in an apparent effort to enter Paul’s locker room. Diaz and his team had a physical altercation with members of Paul’s team in the hallway of the arena, and the 37-year-old Diaz was captured slapping a member of Paul’s team on video before he was eventually escorted out of the arena by security.

Paul said he is more than happy to entertain an offer to fight Diaz, and mocked the former UFC lightweight contender’s theatrics. Prior to his last bout Sept. 10, Diaz decided not to re-sign with UFC and became a free agent after a fourth-round win by submission against Tony Ferguson. As a free agent, he is free to transition to boxing.

Anderson Silva, right, was knocked down in the eighth round but recovered to finish the fight against Jake Paul. (Photo by Grace Edwards/Cronkite News)

“Everyone wants that fight,” Paul said. “He tried to fight people in the hallway. Nate, stop fighting people for free. Let’s do it in the ring. I know you’re a little slow buddy, but let’s make that fight happen.”

The stakes were high entering the Paul-Silva fight. Would Paul, the 25-year-old internet sensation, continue a magical run in the boxing ring against one of the great UFC fighters? Or could the 47-year-old Silva humble the self-proclaimed “Problem Child”?

The fight went back and forth for the majority of the contest. Silva forced Paul to fight defensively early on, a situation new to the younger and less-experienced Paul. However, as the fight progressed, Paul got a little more comfortable and became more aggressive.

It was Paul’s knockdown in the eighth round that proved to be the difference maker in the contest.

“We were throwing shots all night, and that one just caught him off guard when he was coming up,” Paul said. “And he was taking harder shots than that. That wasn’t even the hardest punch of the night, it was obviously just the timing.”

That mistake likely cost Silva a chance at a victory. The three judges scored the fight 77-74, 78-73, 78-73 – all in favor of Paul.

Silva looked at times like a younger version of himself, quick enough to dodge Paul’s attacks and showing some power when attacking his younger opponent. He said technique, not age, made the difference in the bout – especially on the knockdown.

“I failed in my strategy,” Silva said. “In the last round, Jake threw a good punch and my base was not correct. I didn’t feel knocked out, I didn’t feel power, but I wasn’t in good balance so that’s why I took the punch … I’m human. I’m a superhero, but sometimes my half human fails.”

Paul’s previous victories were sweet. This one was bittersweet.

Growing up, Paul idolized Silva and wanted to be just like him. And after the victory, he had only praise for his childhood hero.

“It’s surreal,” Paul said. “I don’t think it’ll hit me until a couple of weeks from now. I feel like I’m living in a movie. He was the one that told me I could accomplish anything if I set my mind to it.

“You couldn’t have written this in a story. It feels like a movie and just being in the room with him, seeing his heart, his courage, his bravery – that’s the champion that I looked up to and he’s such an inspiration.

Anderson Silva, right, forced Jake Paul to work harder earlier in the fight, but Paul adjusted to Silva’s approach in the later rounds to score the unanimous decision. (Photo by Grace Edwards/Cronkite News)

“I had to go in there and match his heart tonight, heart that I saw through the TV screen when I was a kid. So it’s just surreal and doesn’t make any sense, to be honest.”

After Paul’s past fights, critics called on him to step up the level of competition and face tougher opponents. Paul seemed to take the criticism to heart when he decided to fight Silva, who some regard as one of the best mixed martial arts fighters of all time.

If Diaz is Paul’s next opponent, it would follow a common theme for Paul. His last three opponents have all been former UFC fighters, not pure boxers. Diaz is a big name in MMA circles, and the fight would spark a lot of attention.

“What I can expect is the build-up would be very vile,” said José Youngs, who writes for MMAfighting.com. “Nate is not one to back down from a challenge, and Jake likes to poke buttons. I feel like when someone pokes Nate’s buttons, water bottles get thrown, stuff gets thrown.

“So I think they are going to have to keep both of their teams separated for a while. I’m more intrigued by the build-up of that fight rather than the actual fight.”

Paul also took the opportunity after his victory to call out professional boxer Canelo Alvarez, further fueling speculation about his next opponent. Alvarez is coming off a unanimous decision victory against Gennady Golovkin in September.

Saturday night’s victory might have been Paul’s greatest achievement in the ring so far, but he believes he has more to prove.

“I think this fight definitely has to gain me some respect, and I’m only 2 1/2 years in,” Paul said. “So this is just a start. I’m just getting warmed up with what I can accomplish.”

Remy Mastey REH-mee MASS-tee
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Remy Mastey expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Mastey has interned as an editorial intern with NHL.com.

Grace Edwards Grace Ed-words
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Grace Edwards expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, a minor in business and a certificate in sales and marketing. Edwards, who has interned as a social media correspondent for the Women’s Premier Soccer League, in her third semester with Cronkite News.