It might sound crazy, but a YouTuber-turned-boxer vs. a current UFC champion could actually happen. But for now, regulated sportsbooks in the U.S. are reluctant to wade into the waters on the hypothetical boxing exhibition between Jake Paul and Kamaru Usman.
US Bets has spoken with representatives of multiple sportsbooks who say it’s premature to offer betting on such a match, even if bets could refunded if the fight never ended up taking place. Legal sportsbooks are under relatively strict state regulations on their betting markets.
Following Paul’s in-person appearance at UFC 261 on Saturday in Florida, which resulted in a stream of thunderous “F-ck Jake Paul” chants, rumblings of a fight between the internet celebrity and emergent UFC welterweight star Usman are percolating on social media.
Paul’s been rattling off names of UFC stars in the wake of clobbering retired UFC fighter Ben Askren, who is widely regarded as one the worst strikers top-level MMA has ever seen. One of those names was UFC heavyweight Daniel Cormier, who was commentating at UFC 261. Cormier, a huge fan of professional wrestling, took a liking to the attention and trash talk, deciding to confront Paul face-to-face in a highly visible way in front of a crowd of about 15,000 people. The confrontation was one of the biggest moments of what was an exciting card overall that featured a string of devastating finishes.
Usman, who has now won a mind-boggling 14 straight fights in the UFC and is starting to be considered as one of the UFC’s all-time greats, prevailed in the main event of the card. Usman’s star power took a big leap forward after he viciously knocked out hometown favorite Jorge Masvidal. While the UFC is eyeing a rematch between Usman and the notorious Colby Covington, per Dana White, Usman is starting to push for a boxing match with Paul, which could be much more lucrative due to Paul’s massive internet following.
Usman appeared on TMZ this week and talked about the Paul-Cormier confrontation, offering to take on Paul in the ring (as opposed to the octagon) on behalf of Cormier. Paul quickly took to Twitter to unofficially accept the fight offer, and it appears to be genuine.
Challenge accepted.@USMAN84kg if your boss Dana gives you permission to box me and make more money than you ever have, let me know and we can lace them up. I promise it will be your biggest pay day.
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) April 27, 2021
Keep making your money young man, and stay on that side. I ain’t no Disney kid and I don’t play fighting.
— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) April 28, 2021
Usman has a wrestling background, but he’s improved his striking greatly over time, winning three of his last four by KO/TKO. Another matchup vs. a high-profile grappler seems appealing for Paul, though Usman would clearly be the biggest challenge and risk to date. One would think Paul would be a significant underdog. Paul is 3-0 in exhibition boxing matches so far, and it’s become apparent that his “O” is crucial for marketing his fights. For his potential opponents, there’s a lot of value in being the guy to take that perfect record away. Paul is widely hated, though he does also have loyal fans. He fully embraces the heel persona.
After Usman seemed to dismiss Paul accepting the fight, Paul doubled down on the bout.
So let’s get this straight:
1. Usman calls me out to fight on TMZ sports interview
2. I quickly accept the challenge to fight and will give him biggest pay day of career ($10m+)
3. Usman then backs out of fight because I’m “a Disney kid”
4. Usman visits Disney world pic.twitter.com/CkUBZ5aVYM
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) April 28, 2021
Would the UFC endorse the fight?
It’s unclear whether the UFC would allow a current champion like Usman to fight Paul, but it did give Askren, who was still under contract with the promotion, the OK to take the fight. The UFC and Triller, which promotes Paul’s fights, would also need to come to an arrangement to make it happen. The UFC would probably need a ton of involvement in the production of the event in order to put one of its stars on the line.
While there is risk in Usman losing to Paul, the upside is massive, potentially launching Usman into superstar status if he wastes Paul to the delight of millions of people.
The 24-year-old Paul has been training with pro boxers for several years now, so it appears he does think the time is right for a fight with Usman. It would be the biggest gamble yet for Paul, but the upside for him is also massive. It might be a win-win scenario for Paul, as long as he doesn’t get knocked out. A decision loss could still be a win for his brand and keep his boxing experiment going.
The UFC might not be as concerned about Usman losing as one would think. Usman has displayed a great chin inside the octagon, so it’s possible that the worst-case scenario for Usman would be a competitive fight that doesn’t go his way. The MMA promotion could also spin an Usman loss just like it did Conor McGregor’s to Floyd Mayweather in 2017 — that the UFC is real fighting, while boxing is not.
(It must be noted that even the UFC isn’t real fighting. It’s a sport with a lot of rules.)
The UFC so far appears reluctant to do business with Paul and Triller, but that might soon be changing. Paul didn’t exactly steal the show in Florida, but he was one of the big storylines despite simply being a spectator, and UFC fighters are now aware of the value in at least engaging with him.
Paul has publicly flirted with potential bouts with Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor, though neither has been interested like Usman. The Nigeria-born star is starting to run out of things to prove in the UFC.
As for sportsbooks, including the UFC’s partner DraftKings, a Paul-Usman boxing match would surely draw a hefty handle. Some regulated sportsbooks declined to book action on Paul-Askren, but they probably couldn’t sit out on Paul-Usman if it happened.
Photo by Jasen Vinlove / USA Today Sports