When Anthony Joshua fights, the current heavyweight champion of the world rarely draws more than 650,000 viewers at a time on subscriber cable TV.
When Olajide William "JJ" Olatunji took on rival YouTuber Joe Weller in February, the digital combat influencer—better known as KSI—got 12 million people and counting to watch the fight.
KSI is a fighter, but he is also a combat-sports event promoter, a distributor and a rapper all in one, tied in a digital bow that has made him the Don King of YouTube.
Originally from Watford, England, the 24-year-old KSI has transformed his body of work from his early days—two whole years ago—as one of the most prolific and well-known YouTubers in the world. He helped make FIFA video battles a phenomenon as part of the Machinima Sports network, as he had a relatable, in-your-living-room vibe. More recently, KSI has also been working with professional fighters to take on fellow YouTubers in the ring, and this isn’t his first foray into combat sports.
KSI has trained with former UFC middleweight champion and fellow Brit Michael Bisping, but vlog-on-vlog combat is more about pro influencers turned amateur combatants, more trash-talking and sharing than tactics and tallies. Sure, UFC has its corner of the streaming internet, but what MMA has in fanboys, old-school boxing has in new-school followers.
Eight years after he posted that first 30-second kill montage from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, KSI has evolved into a multilayered entertainer. He’s a pretty legit rapper, too: KSI's debut EP peaked at No. 1 on the UK R&B charts and 19th on the US R&B and hip-hop charts. The music video for "Lamborghini" has been viewed 95 million times since it was released in 2015. KSI can beat you every which way.
Almost immediately after he beat Weller in February, KSI announced another amateur boxing showdown against an even more popular YouTuber: Logan Paul, a 23-year-old with more than 17 million subscribers. Ahead of the August 25 bout, trash talk has more than filled the void, but KSI-Paul could be the biggest fight ever on the biggest video platform in the world.
Brian Mazique is a contributor for Forbes and former member of the Bleacher Report Breaking News Team. Follow him on Twitter: @UniqueMazique.
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