There are a lot of unanswered questions around the force that Paul (3-0, 3 KOs) has become in combat sports. The fact that his next fight against Woodley, 39, will air on Showtime PPV,
a well established network in the combat space, is certainly interesting. What’s the long term appeal of these fights? And how might they impact the industry, particularly if more active pro fighters want a piece of the action?
For now, however, let’s focus on some of the questions we can already answer. And many of those center around Woodley. Who is he? What has he done? Where is he in his career to be accepting this fight? And, most pertinent, can he box?
And that bugs him. Woodley has long believed he never got enough credit (or compensation, for that matter) for his MMA accomplishments, which has resulted in a massive chip on his shoulder.
A lot of that is due to the fact that when he was champion, UFC president Dana White was highly critical of some of his performances. Ultimately,
Woodley struggled to rally the UFC’s fanbase around him, and the unfortunate reality of combat sports is when you’re not a fan favorite, you are at risk of going underappreciated. Woodley was probably a victim of that.
And his frustration, disappointment, bitterness — however you want to phrase it — around that aspect of his MMA career is worth noting right now, because …
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In many ways, it’s similar to the situation of Paul’s last opponent, Ben Askren. Askren, 36, was a former MMA champion in multiple organizations and a U.S. Olympic wrestler.
As good as Askren was, however, there were always questions about, “How good is Askren, really?,” because all of his success occurred outside the UFC. And when he did make a move to the UFC late in his career, he didn’t fare especially well.
So, when Askren got knocked out by Paul in April — in a non-competitive, 119-second bout — that had consequences on his legacy. In a matter of years, Askren’s résume went from an undefeated welterweight
force, to a guy who struggled when he finally got to te UFC and was badly knocked out by a social media influencer. Any way you frame it, that’s a huge difference in a short amount of time.