It’s not that there’s anything outright wrong with the fact that Ben Askren is going to box YouTube star Jake Paul. It’s just the fact that it’s going to be a plague on the MMA headlines until the contest is behind us.
Conor McGregor conducted himself in the best way possible pre and post fight at UFC 257. New stars like Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveria are emerging purely from their performances in the Octagon. Which makes the timing of Askren vs. Paul, a fight likely to be more hype than substance, just unfortunate. It almost seemed as though MMA was turning a corner in terms of the toning down of the fabricated beefs and personas, all poured on heavy for the sake of promotion. The last pay-per-view event was reminiscent of MMA in around 2008-2011, back when the intrigue of a contest was based solely on the fighters, and the match-up in the cage.
But right on cue post UFC 257, we are being served another gong show that is going to see a Youtube “star” and retired MMA fighter outshine some of best mixed martial artists on the planet, in their own space. Or at least outdraw them, anyway. The fact of the matter is that no matter what the outcome of this boxing match between Askern and Paul is, it’s not likely a good look for MMA. But hopefully the damage to our beloved sport is minimal, and we can put this event behind us with MMA being relatively unscathed.
For more thoughts on Askren vs. Paul, which takes place under the Triller banner on April 17, check out the video above.