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KSI Logan Paul
Logan Paul (far left) versus KSI, and Deji versus Jake Paul (far right).
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Logan Paul and KSI: the reasons, and moral quandaries, behind YouTube’s biggest fight

Why they’re fighting, and where Jake Paul and Deji fit in

This Saturday, at approximately 4 p.m. ET, Logan Paul and KSI, two equally controversial figures in the YouTube community, will step into a boxing ring to fight each other for a championship title.

Tens of thousands of fans will pack the Manchester Arena in England, with some of YouTube’s most prominent and notable creators hanging out ringside. Merchandise booths will line the hallways, with people waiting to get their exclusive hoodie or t-shirt to prove that they were there for what’s being billed by participants as the internet event of the century. Chants of “Fuck the Pauls,” a popular saying among KSI’s camp, and “Walmart!,” a popular insult among Logan Paul’s camp, will be yelled throughout the arena like battle cries. Like a typical PayPerView fight, people who can’t be there will pay to stream it, and hope it doesn’t conk out halfway through.

Much like traditional boxing event, Logan Paul and KSI’s fight is rooted in petty drama, which developed its own lore over the past few months. Think Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather going head-to-head, a battle between the old guard and the new guard, staged after years of dancing around the idea.

How did Paul and KSI get to this moment? Here’s everything you need to know about the boxing match, a polarizing milestone for the YouTube era of celebrity.

A miniature soap opera

Two important YouTube-related incidents occurred at the beginning of 2018: Logan Paul became the most notorious, and possibly detested, YouTube creator after he recorded a vlog in Japan’s Aokiaghara Forest which included gratuitous footage of a man’s dead body. His video resulted in demonetization problems for YouTube’s entire creator base, new policies, and countless statements from company executives about why this happened in the first place. Paul took three weeks away from YouTube, and promised to return a changed man.

Around the time of Logan Paul’s incident, KSI participated in his first major amateur boxing match with fellow YouTube creator, Joe Weller. Weller and KSI’s fight, much like KSI’s upcoming match with Logan, was based around months of manufactured drama. Weller is an actual amateur boxer; KSI is the Vince McMahon of extravagant YouTube entertainment. Whereas Weller saw an opportunity to promote his own personal brand as a fighter, KSI focused on the business opening. Cartoonish dollar signs appeared in front of his eyes, and he dialed up the theatrics surrounding their small feud in an attempt to make the fight an unmissable event.

It worked. Approximately 1.6 million people watched the free fight live, and more than 20 million people watched the fight in the following days. It was a rousing success. KSI knew it. After winning the match, he accepted his championship belt, and used his precious time in front of the camera to call out Logan and Jake Paul.

“Obviously, your man’s got this belt right now and if any YouTuber wants it, you can come get it,” KSI said. “Jake Paul, Logan Paul, and of the Pauls — I don’t care. Bring it.”

His remarks caught both Jake and Logan’s attention. Logan Paul, still reeling from the worldwide criticism he received, mostly stayed out of it. So did his brother Jake, who offered up his dad, Greg Paul, as a potential fighter. The suggestion felt like a tongue-in-cheek-jab at KSI’s new business strategy: find popular YouTubers, challenge them to a fight, and reap the financial rewards.

The challenge was something both brothers would have immediately jumped on just a couple of months prior. But with Logan under the microscope (and Jake playing the dutiful brother), accepting a challenge to box someone, increase the scrutiny already on them and face even more backlash wasn’t something they were interested in at the time. Offering up Greg seemed like the perfect solution.

Think of Greg Paul as YouTube’s Kris Jenner.

Greg oversees much of Jake and Logan Paul’s businesses. He’s always there. His immediate response to the fight challenge was “yes,” but KSI took issue with it. He responded to the challenge acceptance with a vlog, explicitly stating that he wasn’t going to fight Jake and Logan’s dad — it needed to be one of them. The A-list YouTubers’ dad wasn’t going to bring in the money. KSI needed his Wrestlemania.

After KSI’s original challenge on Feb. 3, a series of overly dramatic events took place:

  • KSI created a poll for people to vote on suggesting other YouTube creators he could fight
  • Rumors leaked that KSI and Logan Paul’s teams were talking about a potential fight
  • Deji, KSI’s younger brother, called out Jake Paul.
  • Deji traveled to Los Angeles, and posted a series of vlogs calling Jake Paul out.
  • Jake Paul met Deji at a local park, armed with boxing gloves and vague, half-hearted insults.
  • KSI confronted Logan Paul at a training gym where nothing much happened aside from a few insults tossed back and forth.

This all happened in 43 days. One thing became immediately clear to everyone watching, and everyone participating, in the undeniably juvenile antics. Fake feuding sells and, despite our own morals, the ongoing drama was undeniably entertaining.

On March 18, Logan Paul and KSI match was officially announced alongside Jake Paul and Deji’s undercard fight. The tea was served steaming hot.

Just the beginning

There’s only one word to describe the ambience on YouTube after the March 18 announcement and Aug. 25, the day of the fight: mayhem.

Everyone who could jump in to talk about the fight did jump in to talk about the fight. Drama channels and commentators spun their own videos out of the near-daily vlogs Deji and KSI were uploading to smack talk Jake Paul and Logan Paul; two separate press conferences were held in Los Angeles and London to build up hype for the fights; diss tracks were released in the final two weeks leading up to the match; Instagram stories and eye-roll inducing tweets were sent out nearly everyday.

The commotion was impossible to ignore — lucrative, in the YouTube business. Today, at peak hype, even people who don’t care about the fight are commenting on it, or cracking jokes about the situation. Smosh, one of the most popular YouTube channels dedicated to creating comedy shorts, produced a video satirizing the state of YouTube culture, centering the joke around KSI and Logan Paul’s feud. One line in particular sums everything up succinctly.

“This is how people fight now,” one Smosh actress, pretending to be TanaCon creator Tana Mongeau says in the video below. “You’ve got to find time to sell tickets, set up a livestream, find sponsors. Like, what’s the point of even doing anything if you can’t take the hard-earned money of your fans’ parents?”

KSI and Logan Paul’s fight is the epitome of a popular subsect of YouTube culture. Part WWE, part TMZ, the strategic drama ensures that two personalties come out of the fight a little bit richer and with a few more thousand subscribers. They need a fight to sell official posters, hoodies, t-shirts and other accessories. They need a fight to indirectly encourage betting through their Twitter accounts.

Cashing in on YouTube drama elicits mixed feelings from the community. People either adore (channels like DramaAlert have found incredible success in recent years) or detest it. But it’s visible, prompting YouTube executives to weigh in.

“We’re thinking very deeply — and every single day — on how do we create the right incentives and disincentives for creators to do the right thing on YouTube,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s head of business, told Casey Neistat earlier this year. “That means a lot of different things. That means do the right thing for advertisers, do the right thing for their users, for the platform organically, and not chase sensationalism; not chase views for the sake of views, and not chase drama for the sake of views — and not use drama at our expense for the sake of views.”

YouTube has tried to disincentivize content that produces drama for the sake of drama. That hasn’t stopped it from succeeding. The company may not want to be anywhere close to this fight — there’s no mention of it on any of their official YouTube channels, Twitter or Facebook account — but it continues to flourish.

Here’s the thing

KSI and Logan Paul’s fight isn’t just a momentous occasion for a sect of YouTube creators; the fight sits at the heart of a moral dilemma. Do viewers who pay $10 simply get to enjoy this type of YouTube content, like a Conor McGregor fight or Wrestlemania? Or are they indirectly supporting Logan Paul’s so-called redemption tour?

It’s a tough question to grapple with, and it’s an increasingly big part of deciding which YouTubers to watch. Scaachi Koul, a senior culture reporter at Buzzfeed News, wrote this about Paul in January 2018, just after everything first happened:

What happens when lousy people on YouTube become lousy people in the world? At what point do you stop engaging in a stranger’s wish fulfillment to keep him rich and happy and semi-famous? There seems to be so little stopping people like Paul from failing upward endlessly into another level of celebrity, one where he might have to be more careful, but where he’ll have access to a whole new audience who, likely as not, won’t remember the mistakes he made on the way up. Even when he loses, Logan Paul still wins.

The KSI-Logan Paul fight will generate millions of dollars for everyone involved. It’s up to each individual person if they want to watch — much like it was up to each individual person to decide if they wanted to pay to watch Conor McGregor, a man whose used racist remarks in the past, fight Floyd Mayweather, a man who has a long history of domestic violent. Culture can’t ignore it — it’s already the biggest and most-talked about YouTube event in the past decade, even if executives want to turn a blind eye by pretending it doesn’t exist — but individuals face a different, ethical decision.

This fight will mark the end of Logan Paul and KSI’s feud — hopefully — but these types of extravagant, over-the-top, multi-million dollar YouTube events are just beginning.

The day begins at 2 p.m. ET. KSI and Logan Paul are set to walk out to the ring at approximately 4 p.m. ET. The fight will cost $10, and can be streamed through KSI and Logan Paul’s direct channel.