Welcome back to TGIFighting, where we preview the weekend's combat sports action and make humorous observations about the news of the day. Ready? Let's go.
How the Paul Brothers Are Doing More For Combat Sports Than UFC
To put it mildly, Tyron Woodley (19-7-1) had some success in an eight-year stint in the UFC. That stint included two years as welterweight champ, punctuated by three title defenses.
In March, Woodley dropped a barn-burner with Vicente Luque (20-7-1)—Woodley's fourth straight defeat. It was also the last fight on his UFC contract. At age 38 (now 39), it made sense for Woodley to leave the grind behind and ride off into the sunset. Right?
Instead, Woodley is now set to face YouTube dignitary and apparent boxing luminary Jake Paul in an exhibition match this August. Why? One last competitive mountain to climb? Uh, nah. As it turns out, Woodley could really use the money, and this one bout is more than he ever made in the UFC, including during his time as champion.
But don't take my word for it. Speaking about the Paul fight recently with Damon Martin of MMA Fighting, Woodley's manager, Malki Kawa, confirmed that Woodley "definitely [will get] paid in his base guarantee more than he ever did in the UFC, whether as a champion or non-champion."
Do we have all the receipts from the UFC to demonstrate this? No. And no reasonably informed person will hold their breath for such comprehensive data to come to light, even with UFC parent company Endeavor recently going public.
But we don't really need those numbers to draw a credible conclusion. It's an open secret (if it can be considered a secret at all) that the UFC notoriously and unapologetically underpays its fighters when compared with other sports.
It's something Paul is acutely aware of. Back in April, he took to social media with the following broadsides against the UFC and prez Dana White, who he called a "douche." He even inserted himself into the UFC's ongoing beef (over money) with Jon Jones (26-1 1 NC) over a heavyweight bout with Francis Ngannou (16-3):
"In my third fight I made more money in total pay than any fighter in UFC history. Maybe it's time to pay your fighters their fair share? No wonder they all want to get into boxing. ... Hurry up and make Jones vs Ngannou. Pay them their fair share... $10 million purse for each guy plus PPV points. Why are UFC fighters so underpaid vs. boxers?"
And it's not just Woodley. Ben Askren, a wrestler who was 36 years old when Jake Paul flattened him in April in a rather farcical affair, said the $500,000 pay-per-view he earned for the night's work (no PPV points on that, by the by) was one of if not the largest payday of his fight career.
"Honestly, I thought about this," Askren told ESPN (h/t Sports Manor). "This is kind of utterly impressive. I made more in the Jake Paul fight, just on my base purse nothing else included, than all of my fight purses in Bellator combined. That's nine wins."
According to publicly reported salary numbers, in three UFC bouts Askren received $350,000 in a win over Robbie Lawler at UFC 235; $213,500 for a loss to Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239; and $263,500 in a loss to Demian Maia.
Keep in mind that $500,000 is still not exactly a gargantuan payday in pro sports, even if it's high in an MMA context. For perspective, Paul did indeed get pay-per-view points in his bout with Askren, to the alleged tune of a $96 million windfall.
(With this in mind, should Kawa really be crowing about his negotiation skills? What did he do here besides tell Woodley where to sign? I'd like to know. Just thinking out loud.)
It's sadly humorous that boxing contracts, even on the novelty circuit and even when negotiations don't appear to break in favor of MMA fighters, can be so lopsided. Perhaps most hilarious of all is the fact that Jake Paul is now a champion of not just fighter rights but retirement accounts.
The Paul Brothers Sure Do Like to Stay Busy
Even at age 44, Floyd Mayweather (50-0) still has those hands.
In a recent training video, Mayweather showed effortless speed and fluidity during pad work. It's the kind of thing that makes you a little worried for Logan Paul (0-1), the senior of the two Paul brothers (26 years old to Jake's 24) Sunday against the iconic, sometimes controversial five-division champ.
Not a lot of subtext in this one. If Mayweather doesn't finish Paul, that likely means the fight devolved into a lucrative game of tag. But Mayweather has a history of rising to the occasion in sideshow fights; witness his TKO of Conor McGregor in 2017 and humiliating cult-hero kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a silly if visually compelling boxing match in 2018.
All to say, get on the money train with Mayweather. But give Logan Paul credit for boxing a boxer, rather than aging MMA fighters who aren't known for their standup games. Right, Jake?
Once MMA's Most Hyped Prospect, Aaron Pico Strives to Regain Relevance
Six or seven years ago, Aaron Pico (7-3) signed a deal with Nike—one of the first MMA fighters to do so. And at that time, he wasn't even officially an MMA fighter yet.
An Olympic-level wrestler and gold-gloves boxer before he could even order a beer on US soil, Pico's goal was always to conquer the world of MMA. He collected wrestling medals around the world and assembled an all-star team of coaches: boxing genius Freddie Roach, jiu-jitsu pioneer Eddie Bravo, Bob Cook and the braintrust at American Kickboxing Academy. All of them testified to his prodigious talent. Comparisons to Tiger Woods or Michael Phelps were made without a trace of irony.
And so the hype built (full disclosure: I was very much in on the action).
His pro MMA debut in Bellator at age 20 seemed like a formality. But against Zach Freeman (9-3) he got too hungry for the knockout, lurched too far forward, and found himself in a guillotine choke. The best-laid plans went astray in just 24 seconds.
He seemed to put his woes behind him with four straight victories—all by highlight-reel knockouts. But just when the hype train seemed poised to pull out of stagnation station he dropped two in a row, both by knockout after Pico again appeared to get too eager for the highlight reel. But then three more stoppage wins followed.
You get the idea. It's been a whiplash of a career thus far for Pico. Now, at age 24, he's on the main card against Aiden Lee (9-4) next week at Bellator 260. Lee is a bit of an unknown, a bit of apparent cannon fodder on which Pico can continue to rebuild his record.
Eventually that will need to change, though. The seven guys Pico has beaten sport a combined record of 78-41. That's not very good.
Bellator is right to bring Pico along slowly, even keeping him out of the promotion's ongoing featherweight grand prix. Still, they have to hope he eventually gets the hype train back on track. Lee would be another step in the right direction.
Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock of the Week
Record to date: 10-3
Let the circus come to town, and give me Mayweather to finish Logan Paul this weekend. Oh, wait, no winner can be declared? Great.
I'm being told there's a UFC event this weekend, UFC Fight Night 189 in Las Vegas. Not the most sparkling of affairs, with heavyweight main eventers Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-2) and Augusto Sakai (15-2-1) both coming off losses and would likely remain out of the title picture even with a win.
But undercarder Makwan Amirkhani could be a good pick. He's struggled against top competition, but Kamuela Kirk (11-4) is not top competition, and he'll be making his UFC debut on short notice this Saturday. Amirkhani's a -230 favorite to handle the newcomer, per DraftKings. Lock it in.