The Jake Paul vs. MMA phenomenon (but… in a boxing match) will unfold this summer, as the popular YouTube star takes on former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in August.
There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding how strong Paul (3-0, 3 KOs) has become in combat sports. It’s certainly interesting that his next fight against Woodley, 39, will air on Showtime PPV, a well-established network in the battlespace. What is the long-term appeal of these fights? And how could they impact the industry, especially if more active professional fighters want to join in on the action?
Of course, there’s also the tantalizing of: how good is Jake Paul a boxer, really?
For now, however, let’s focus on some of the questions we can already answer. And a lot of them center around Woodley. Who is he? What did he do? Where is he in his career to accept this fight? And, more relevant, can he box?
Here’s what you need to know about Paul’s next opponent.
Woodley is one of the greatest welterweights of all time …
Rightfully one of the greatest of all time. In fact, ESPN recently ranked the best welterweights in mixed martial arts history, and Woodley came in at No.4. He fought for a Strikeforce Championship just three years after his professional career in 2012, has won a UFC title in 2016 and defended four times before falling to another all-time greats, Kamaru Usman, in 2019. Woodley is the real deal when it comes to welterweight MMA.
… But it was not always credited
And that bothers him. Woodley has long believed he never got enough credit (or compensation, for that matter) for his MMA accomplishments, which landed him a huge chip on the shoulder.
This is largely due to the fact that when has been champion, UFC president Dana White has sharply criticized some of his performances. In the end, Woodley struggled to rally the UFC fanbase around him, and the sad reality of combat sports is that when you’re not a fan favorite, you might be. underestimated. Woodley was probably a victim of it.
And his frustration, his disappointment, his bitterness – however you want to put it – around this aspect of his MMA career is worth pointing out right now, because …
Woodley is definitely taking a risk, in terms of inheritance, in accepting this fight
In many ways, this resembles the situation of Paul’s last opponent, Ben Askren. Askren, 36, was a former MMA champion in multiple organizations and an American Olympic wrestler. As good as Askren was, however, there were always questions about, “How good is Askren, really?” “ because all of his success has happened outside of the UFC. And when he moved to the UFC at the end of his career, he didn’t fare particularly well.
So when Askren was knocked out by Paul in April – in a 119-second non-competitive fight – it took a toll on his legacy. In a matter of years, Askren’s resume went from an undefeated welterweight force to a guy who struggled when he finally came to the UFC and was severely knocked out by a social media influencer. No matter how you frame it, it’s a huge difference in no time.
And in taking this fight, Woodley faces the same threat. Here’s a guy who always felt his accomplishments were overlooked – and has now lost four straight UFC fights and left the organization. If he suffers the same fate as Askren (who happens to be his close friend) and loses to Paul, it will be simply devastating for the legacy he wishes to leave.
It might get more people to remember Woodley for lose to a YouTuber than for winning a UFC title against Robbie Lawler and defending it against Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Darren Till. That’s a lot of risk to take overnight.
So can Woodley box?
Woodley’s base has always been and still is wrestling. He was a two-time NCAA All American and Big 12 champion at the University of Missouri. However, he hasn’t always relied on that foundation much in MMA, especially in recent years. In fact, Woodley has only converted six strikeouts in his entire UFC career (16 fights), and half of those came in a single fight. Frankly, he was more of a striker than a grappler in MMA.
Woodley has worked with boxing coach Eric Brown since 2008. Brown has been a mainstay of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles for years and has worked with boxing champions like Manny Pacquiao, James Toney and Carlos Hernandez, between other. Woodley’s highlight reel features multiple punches to the feet. For the record, the same could not be said of Askren.
For Woodley, the biggest question around this fight with Paul probably isn’t, “Can he box?” Most likely, the majority of experts would say, “He can at least box as well as Jake Paul.”
The bigger question is whether or not he wants to fight, period. This question has now followed Woodley for over two years. It wasn’t just because of his losing streak, it was that he didn’t look like he wanted to be there for most of them. Now he was fighting the best welterweights in the world, and there was a feeling he was looking forward to the end of his UFC contract for the reasons mentioned earlier, but once a fighter loses the will to be there, there is no guarantee that it will. never come back. If that willpower is really gone – and how far it has gone – could end up being much more important than the quality of a jab it has.