In 2009, a 12-year-old Jake Paul walked into Quicken Loans Arena to see Lebron James play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Little did Jake know that 12 years later, he’d be back in that same arena but this time as the main attraction.
Tomorrow, Jake fights former UFC Champion Tyron Woodley in front of a stadium of fans and millions more on Showtime Pay-Per-View. It’s Jake’s fourth fight in 18 months after beating Ben Askren, Nate Robinson, and AnEsonGib.
Truth be told: Jake isn’t just fighting Tyron this Sunday. He’s also fighting the skeptics who say he’s “just a YouTuber” as he tries to break onto Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes, which is topped by UFC star Connor McGregor.
“Everyone wants to compartmentalize things. They want to label,” Jake told me when we sat down for an interview in his Puerto Rico home. “When YouTubers try anything besides YouTube, people don’t like it. But YouTubers are one of the most unique, most skilled, and most entertaining people in the world. That’s why they’re so powerful and able to drive millions of views.”
The data backs that up. Since Jake started boxing, interest in the sport has skyrocketed. This Google Trends chart shows how often people searched the term “boxing” in the United States. There are three large spikes, each thanks to Jake’s fights with Nate Robinson, Ben Askren, and his brother Logan Paul’s fight with Floyd Mayweather – which Jake helped hype up with famous “gotcha hat” moment.
“That’s what we want,” Jake said when I showed him the search trends. “I want to bring new eyeballs to the sport and grow people’s interest in boxing. I want it to become a top 2 or top 3 sport and I think it has the potential to do so.”
It’s not just the sport of boxing that benefits when Jake gets in the ring. It’s his fellow boxers, too. Ben Askren’s Google search interest rose by a staggering 2,150% before his fight with Jake. Nate Robinson gained hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers before his fight. The list goes on.
“Boxing is a perfect place for me,” Jake said. “It’s the storylines. It’s the narratives. It’s the over-the-top, flamboyant craziness. It’s really perfect for me.”
That’s why critics who dismiss Jake miss the point. Going from YouTuber to boxer isn’t a surprising transition. It’s a logical one. Think about what it takes to get 1.5 million people to pay $49.99 pay-per-view as they reportedly did when Jake fought Ben Askren. Now consider what it takes to be one of very few YouTubers with 20M subscribers. The skillsets are similar: mental toughness to show up every day, storytelling skills to draw mass audiences, patience to study past films, and the ability to create a spectacle.
“People don’t give enough respect to YouTubers because it seems like a fun, easy job where you just turn a camera on. But that’s not the case,” Jake said. “Why can’t someone go from media to sports but everyone can go from sports to media? It’s a different model and I don’t think people like ‘different’ at first.”
It’s true. As an example, consider how the media treats Lebron James compared to Jake. They celebrated Lebron when he starred in movies like Trainwreck and Space Jam, started his own media company, and even made a documentary called “More Than Athlete” to inspire athletes to do more off the court. The few who criticized Lebron — like Fox News reporter Laura Ingraham who told him to “shut up and dribble” — were immediately met with backlash.
Yet, when Jake tries to be more than a creator, he’s essentially told to “shut up and just be a YouTuber” even though he’s done so much for the sport of boxing and created nonprofits like Boxing Bullies to empower the next generation with self-confidence and leadership skills.
Luckily, Jake’s never been one to listen to critics. He shared how he uses manifestation techniques to tune out the outside world and turn his dreams into reality. He showed me his bathroom mirror covered with sheets of paper with his manifestations written on each one.
The main one he reads nearly 20 times per day is: “I, Jake Paul, will knock out, defeat and embarrass Tyron Woodley in the first round on August 29 live on Showtime.” It’s worth noting how specific Jake gets so it’s easier for him to visualize.
“Your brain can’t always tell the difference between something you’re dreaming of versus something that’s happening in reality,” Jake explained. “So if you speak it, believe it, see it over and over in your head, and do the things necessary to make that a reality, then…for me, it’s worked now three fights in a row.”
One of Jake’s more ambitious dreams is to turn his boxing into an even bigger business. At age 24, he’s reportedly already made $20M from boxing alone. Given that the current highest-paid athlete, Connor McGregor, is 9 years older and didn’t start with the social following and business team that Jake already has, then the sky could be the limit if Jake sticks with the sport for another decade.
“The little young Jake Paul dreamed of being a pro high-paid athlete and for many years, that dream was never fulfilled and I went into YouTube and pursued other things,” Jake said. “Now to think, I can circle back and be amongst the top [highest paid athletes], I would honestly cry. It’s very possible to break into that list.”
If there’s anything to learn from Jake, it’s that anything is possible when we can see it and believe it. Don’t be surprised if Jake makes the list of highest-paid athletes sooner than we think. For all we know, he’s already working on manifesting it into reality.
Special thank you to Mark Rodriguez, Jordan van der Weyden, Uli Abundis, Charles Benoit and the entire Mastermynd Media team for helping with the shoot, to Chloe Ginsberg, Mohil Gupta, Orlando Cano, and for helping me prep. And of course to Jake for taking time out of the training camp to do the interview and Michael Goldberg and Marcos Guerrero for helping coordinate.