Over the years, there had been a strange aura of invincibility around Jake Paul. Strange considering we are talking about a former Disney channel and YouTube star who has been beating up UFC fighters and barely breaking a sweat.
But that aura is gone – now that his first career defeat has been dished out by bitter rival Tommy Fury earlier this year. For a while now Paul’s critics have been watching his progress waiting for him to slip up and arguing that once he is beaten, the interest in his journey as a boxer will start to shrivel up.
While Paul’s rivals are now aware he can be beaten, he emerged with credit for his performance against Fury, taking the professional boxer to the final bell and even sending him to the canvas in the 12th round.
Ahead of his next fight against former MMA superstar Nate Diaz on Saturday night, Paul is finding that not only are the opportunities continuing to mount up despite a crushing defeat, but that it has helped him level up his game as a fighter.
‘I think the loss was a massive win because it reset a lot of things in my life,’ Paul told Mail Sport. ‘It gave me that chip on my shoulder that I had lost beating a bunch a guys and making a bunch of money doing it. You get caught up in this game and you lose that tenacity in the gym. You have to have a strong why to go into the gym. I started to lose that going into the Tommy fight. I wasn’t as hungry or motivated. It was such a blessing in disguise.’
Jake Paul (L) suffered the first defeat of his professional career in February against Tommy Fury
Paul faces UFC icon Nate Diaz (R) at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas, Texas on Saturday
I ask Paul if there was anything he would change from that night in Saudi Arabia on February 26 – where after he claimed a number of factors had disrupted his rhythm and preparation – including jet leg, injuries, illness and weak legs. But he insists ‘needed’ to lose and is in fact grateful to Fury for beating him.
‘I wouldn’t. I’m glad I’m lost,’ he added. ‘I needed it for so many reasons. I have thanked Tommy in my meditations for beating me. I owe him because this is what’s better for me in the universal plan.
‘I think losing put me on a track to being more successful longer term [as opposed to] me beating him that night. I’m very happy with where I am in life and the changes I’ve made. They made me a better person and fighter.
‘I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. It’s almost a relief. There’s a ton of pressure going into these fights when you’re undefeated. I know what it feels like to lose now and it wasn’t bad. There were some tough moments initially, but they made me more confident in myself going forward.’
Fury has since signed on to face another of Paul’s rivals in KSI later this year – with the American hoping to face the winner. He is particularly craving a rematch with Fury – revealing there are ‘talks behind the scenes’ to make it happen – as he aims to right the wrongs of the first fight.
‘I know I will (beat him) and for me it’s not even about beating him, it’s about finishing him,’ he adds. ‘To leave no doubt. To show people that he caught me at the best possible time for him, but it was my worst possible night and timing in my life.
‘When we meet again, I’m going to stop him and that will show people that what happened that night was a fluke.
Paul is 6-1 as a professional boxers and holds victories over the likes of Tyron Woodley (pictured), Ben Askren and NBA star Nate Robinson
‘I think I didn’t perform well. Tommy had a good fight but it was me that didn’t step up to the plate. I didn’t perform to the best of my ability. I lost the fight and I wasn’t in my best state as a fighter. It wasn’t like he was any tougher than Anderson Silva, I just didn’t live up to my expectations that night.
‘I have now brought in this new team all across the board which has made me exponentially better and a different fighter and it’s made the sport super fun, more fun than I’ve ever had before. It’s been an amazing journey since the loss.’
For now, all the focus is on continuing his progress against Diaz – who has never fought in professional boxing before – and Paul will be the heavy favourite to secure victory but some fans and doubters have been quick to rubbish this contest as a sham having watched footage of his opponent on the pads and left being unimpressed. What does Paul have to say to those people?
‘I would say I’m sitting in a $16m house and sold one of the biggest pay per views in the history of the sport,’ he responds. ‘I’m fighting one of the biggest UFC stars and legends, one of the biggest PPV draws in UFC history in Nate Diaz.
‘This is my biggest gate ever, the highest grossing average ticket price. The traction for this fight is massive. This is still somehow only the start of everything I’m going to accomplish in this sport.
‘It’s funny to me that when I go up against these guys, like [Tyron] Woodley and Anderson Silva, I’m the favourite and it doesn’t really make sense to me. It shows that the problem with our culture is no one believes and you have to make them believe. They believe so much they try to discredit me and say crazy things about my fights like “it’s rigged”.
‘For me, it’s a compliment. They went from thinking I couldn’t even beat [NBA star] Nate Robinson to not even being able to believe what they’re watching so they come up with any excuse they can.’
Fans have also been left shocked by news that Diaz was set to compete in two triathlons just weeks before the fight, leading to doubts over what kind of condition he will arrive in, but nonetheless, Paul is expecting a real battle inside the ring.
Diaz became one of the UFC’s most iconic faces after a stunning 15-year career in the company
Paul’s last win in the ring came against former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in 2022
‘It’s going to be a really tough fight,’ he insists. ‘The guy has never been stopped before, he’s a dog. He has a supreme striking ability, he stopped Conor McGregor. [Critics] don’t know anything about the sport.
‘They don’t know how good Nate Diaz is and why he’s gotten so far. Coming off a massive W in the UFC, he’s on a roll and has been boxing since before I was even on Disney channel! He’s been doing this longer than I have and has tonnes of experience.’
These crossover fights have become part and parcel of the sport and something we’re seeing constantly now. Even Tyson Fury – the brother of his rival Tommy – has taken a leaf out of the former YouTuber’s book by securing a lucrative bout with a former UFC star in Francis Ngannou.
The two are set to clash in Saudi Arabia in October, finally giving the Cameroonian a massive paycheck he has been chasing for years in the UFC – with Paul among the names campaigning for MMA stars to receive bigger fight purses.
Fury v Ngannou has split the boxing fanbase, especially given that the WBC world champion has avoided an undisputed fight with Oleskandr Usyk in the process, but Paul believes it is a good thing for boxing.
Former UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou (pictured), will take on British boxing star Tyson Fury in a sensational cross-over bout in October this year
‘I think it’s amazing for boxing, he said. ‘It’s amazing for the fighters to show Francis Ngannou can leave the UFC and make the big fights and paydays he deserves and be in control of his own destiny. For that reason it’s such an amazing thing. You can never count out a heavyweight who has the strongest punch in the world. That’s Francis Ngannou.
‘You’ve seen Deontay Wilder put Fury on the canvas, so you never know. That for me is why this is so fun to watch it’s two of the baddest men in the planet in Saudi. It’s going to be a spectacle and I hope more MMA fighters take a page out of Francis’ book and start to be in control and make the big paydays they deserve.’
What about Paul? Will he continue to fight UFC stars where the rewards are big – but the reaction from fans is not necessarily so positive – or will he opt to fight more pro boxers now he’s had a taste with Tommy Fury?
‘That’s down the roadmap [fighting pro boxers], but then you start throwing these names in like KSI, rematching Tommy,’ he continues. ‘I’m just going to fight when it makes sense with names that it makes sense to fight for me, continue to get in the gym and continue to challenge myself. Stepping up each time with the level of opposition and I’m not going to stop that any time soon.’