At this point Jake Paul and Eddie Hearn are on opposite sides of the negotiation table, with Hearn representing Katie Taylor in her upcoming bout against Paul client Amanda Serrano. The two women are expected to face off in late April, for a rare top-shelf ‘superfight’ in women’s boxing.
But not that long ago, it was Hearn doing all the promoting and Paul stepping into the ring. As Hearn recently recalled in an interview on the MMA Hour, the Paul Brothers got their start on a Matchroom event.
“I promoted his first fight, two years ago. I started this mess,” Hearn joked (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I put him in against a YouTuber, and the best way I can describe Jake is, people say to me, ‘Do you like Jake Paul?’ And I say Jake – the terminology is different in the U.K. – plonker, grade-A plonker, dipstick. But I like him. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. Half the time, I think he’s on a wind up. You know what I mean? Like, we were doing a media scrum today and he was talking about fighting Canelo, and I’m looking at him going, ‘Are you just laughing inside?’ And I think it’s a little bit of both.
“I think fighters, because of what they’ve sacrificed, sometimes hold it against Jake Paul and say, ‘Well, I’ve been grinding in the gym for 15 years!’ Yeah, but you’re not good enough and you haven’t built the profile that he’s built. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to do that? He’s put in the work in the gym. He’s fallen in love with the sport, genuinely, and I think he’s good for boxing. I think he brings a different kind of audience.”
And while Hearn may consider Paul to be a net gain for the pugilistic arts, he wasn’t shy about Paul’s feud with the UFC and the negative press that that’s resulted. Something he chalks up in large part to Dana White’s willingness to engage Paul over social media.
“Dana would have been fuming,” Hearn said of Paul’s recent diss track. “He should never have gone back to Jake Paul. It’s the last thing you do—do a video addressing Jake Paul. Just don’t do it. Just leave it. But isn’t it what we want? We want views, we want interest, we want drama, we want confrontation, we want hype, we want narrative. That’s our jobs, isn’t it? So I think they compliment each other in that respect.”
“There will be more pressure on the organization as time goes by, especially with the voice and noise of someone like Jake Paul,” Hearn added speaking of the UFC’s revenue split. “Jake Paul’s a disaster for those guys. [He is sincere], but also I think he’s got a bee in his bonnet and he’s having fun with it, and I think he’s on a mission. But do I think he feels that UFC fighters are underpaid? Yeah, for sure.”
Even though Hearn may personally feel that fighters are underpaid, he was less surprised at the promotion’s ability to dominate and control their market for so long as he was at their ability to continually exert control over their major stars. Even as their popularity and profile has, at times, outstripped that of the promotion.
“I always thought Conor would walk away from the UFC, start up his own promotion of MMA. And it’s very interesting, I’d love to see the ins and outs of how that relationship was managed, with Conor. Reports of when he boxed Mayweather, they went 50/50 on the purse, UFC and Conor, that’s outrageous.
“But, at the same time, I understand, he’s in contract—you’re not allowed to take that fight. So, to do that, that’s the deal. It all comes down to the deal.
“I go back to the beauty of the UFC, which is—to join the UFC is a dream. And when it’s a dream, ultimately, you’re going to get a great deal.”
Whether Paul’s feud with the White ever results in any meaningful progress on the subject of fighter pay remains to be seen. But for Hearn, at the moment, it doesn’t sound like he sees a downside.
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