Logan Paul vs. Dillon Danis: Why there is so much interest in this bizarre matchup of non-traditional boxers

Logan Paul vs. Dillon Danis has been a regular fixture in the combat sports cycle since its announcement on July 30. The interest persists despite quality showcases by Terence Crawford, Justin Gaethje, Canelo Alvarez, Sean O’Malley and Sean Strickland in the time since. But why do so many people care about the Misfits Boxing card taking place at the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena in Manchester, England on Saturday?

The Paul brothers and KSI cast a wide net of interest beyond their beginnings on video platforms like YouTube and Vine. Logan Paul has dazzled as a part-time WWE superstar, competing on multiple WrestleManias and headlining a pay-per-view against undisputed world champion Roman Reigns. Jake Paul emerged as a credible celebrity boxer with wins over three mixed martial arts champions and a recent victory against Nate Diaz, one of Conor Mcgregor’s ¬†rivals. KSI is a legitimate celebrity in the United Kingdom with 10 Top 10 songs and albums that have gone No. 2 and No. 1.

Logan Paul and Jake Paul are technically — loosely speaking — professional boxers but MMA is their real target. It’s a unique two-pronged assault with the Paul brothers playing good cop, bad cop with the UFC. Logan Paul and KSI’s Prime beverage is an official UFC partner; meanwhile, Jake Paul spars with UFC president Dana White in the media and works with the Professional Fighters League while beating up MMA’s heroes in boxing.

The Misfits Boxing events are not for boxing purists. It’s for YouTube fans who want to support their favorite content creators, MMA fans desperate to see the Pauls lose and the morbidly curious. It’s a weird, pseudo-cultural event. A public spectacle. But why is Danis here?

Influencer vs. athlete matchmaking is designed on a fundamental principle: the most reward for the least risk. The Paul brothers prioritize physically smaller opponents with high name value who have almost no boxing experience. The Paul brothers — operating as their own promoters — have the unique responsibility of marketing their opponents as well as themselves. Jake Paul built up wrestler Ben Askren as a multi-time world MMA champion, conveniently excluding his reputation as possibly the worst striker to achieve a high degree of MMA success. The build to Logan Paul vs. Danis took a much uglier tone but the formula is similar.

Danis is a talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor but he barely qualifies as an MMA fighter. Danis fought twice for Bellator between 2018 and 2019, his only professional action under MMA rules. Danis’ name recognition in MMA is not a function of his athletic achievements. His popularity is a response to his friendship with Conor McGregor and public disputes with fighters like Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

What Paul got right in selecting Danis as his opponent — beyond the skill gap — was Danis’ commitment to selling the fight. Danis has done the lion’s share of marketing for this fight and is a key reason for persisting interest in subgenre combatting staleness. Unfortunately, Danis sold the fight by targeting Logan Paul’s fiancee Nina Agdal.¬†

Danis has posted countless photos of Agdal spending quality time with other famous men, some allegedly digitally altered. Danis’ fixation with Agdal resonated with fans, as evidenced by his enormous social media growth, but it landed him in hot water. Agdal is currently suing Danis for “revenge porn,” accusing Danis of allegedly posting “sexually explicit photographs,” per CNN.

“The guy is f—ing so good at Twitter. It’s top-tier trolling, which is why I chose him as an opponent,” Paul told the “Flagrant” podcast in late August. “I had no idea [he was going to go this hard], but we got people interested, right? At the end of the day, it’s all fight promo.

“I think he’s an excellent troll. I think he’s very parasitic, which is why I’m honored that I get to be the one to take him out and embarrass him. That’s why I took the fight. I was like, ‘OK, I know this guy’s going to promote the f— out of it.”

Danis has repeatedly prodded Logan Paul for allegedly failing to compensate $1.5 million to small investors for his CryptoZoo venture. There is also the running joke that Danis, who backed out of a boxing match with KSI earlier this year, will inevitably jump ship. There’s even a $100,000 penalty in place should Danis cancel the fight without approval from a doctor chosen by Paul’s team.

The typical formula of these fights dictates that MMA fans tune in to support their favorite fighter against a brash, cocky social media influencer. But Paul vs. Danis is a unique win-win circumstance for consumers where a knockout in either direction will satisfy. These two men are not well-liked. That is the draw. Any outcome, short of a boring decision, will scratch an awkward itch.

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