With Jake Paul set to face former MMA standout Ben Askren in a pay-per-view boxing main event on Apr. 17, there is plenty of actual debate this time about what might happen in a “YouTuber fight.”
Paul is 2-0 with two easy knockout wins in boxing against a fellow YouTuber who had basically no boxing training and a former NBA player who had basically no boxing training, so there are still legitimate questions about how good he actually is at this.
As for Askren, he’s older at 36, he’s had some hip issues in recent years, and boxing was never a big part of his MMA game, as he was a wrestler first and based his entire attack around that. Some feel he’s so bad in the stand-up game that Paul should be the clear favorite, and they may have a point.
But Askren (19-2 in MMA) spoke to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani about the fight, and laid out his thoughts. In short, Jake Paul does not concern him.
“He’s a fucking YouTube star,” Askren told Helwani. “People are, like, trying to think he’s this good boxer. Think about the guys I stood across the cage from: Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, Robbie Lawler, and they only had four-ounce gloves on, and they could punch me or elbow me or kick me or knee me — they could do whatever the hell they wanted. And now I have to box this YouTube star with 10-ounce gloves on. It just is not all that concerning to me.”
Asked if he felt Paul and the Triller team had picked Askren as an easy fight against a credible fighting name, Askren admitted that’s probably what they see.
“I don’t know about easy fight, but easier for a real fighter. There’s probably not a high-level belief in my stand-up, which listen, I’m fine with that,” he said. “I was never trying to be a great stand-up fighter in mixed martial arts, I was trying to be a great fighter.”
He said that in his entire MMA career, the only time he’d ever been dropped or rocked was the famous flying knee knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 in 2019.
“I was very, very, highly effective in my strategy. And besides Masvidal, unfortunately, I’ve never been knocked down, I’ve never even been rocked,” Askren said. “Nothing close to that ever happened. I’m highly efficient at not getting hit, as well. And that’s again, with a wider plethora of strikes allowed. You can elbow me, kick me, knee me, punch me in mixed martial arts. And none of those trained killers were able to hit me very hard whatsoever.”
I realize some of you are already super sick of hearing about this and the whole YouTuber boxing phenomenon in general, and I get it. But it’s drawing much bigger interest than the majority of boxing events can, and I am legitimately kind of intrigued by this one. This whole thing isn’t going to go away overnight so I might as well ride the wave of short-term fascination. Also I’d get yelled at if I didn’t.