The biggest and ugliest feud in YouTube history came to a climax Saturday in Manchester, England, with millions of dollars and views on the line.
On one side: Logan Paul, the American YouTuber with more than 18 million subscribers, the demeanor of a real-life cartoon character, and a reputation that was almost fatally wounded after he filmed a man who had hanged himself in the Japanese “suicide forest.”
On the other: Olajide “KSI” Olatunji, a British YouTube star who’s leveraged the boxing match to expand his audience, but whose own unsavory remarks about women have been unearthed along the way.
While the fight had been billed as the end of the feud between Paul and Olatunji, the fight ended in a draw, setting the stage for a rematch and another round of YouTube diss videos.
The fight’s outcome was practically besides the point for anyone who didn’t put a quid down on the bout. Instead, the fight served as the end of what’s been a months-long road of YouTube hype that has been good for everyone willing to get in on it.
Olatunji kicked off the feud in February after beating Joe Weller, another YouTuber who had decided to mix boxing with online video fame. In the triumphant ring scrum, Olatunji—who has nearly 20 million YouTube subscribers—said he next wanted to fight anyone named Paul.
Logan Paul and his brother, notably terrible neighbor Jake Paul, vacillated, initially offering Olatunji a chance to fight their father instead. But the Pauls relented in the face of the perfect kind of hype cycle that YouTube rewards, with Logan Paul set to face Olatunji and Jake Paul facing off against Deji Olatunji, KSI’s younger brother.
Since then, the fight has become a kind of all-consuming content black hole that has sucked in every YouTube star eager for more views. It’s also spawned branching beefs that have barely figured into the main story—Deji Olatunji, for example, is also clashing with a convicted pimp who once belonged to the Paul entourage and has since promised to sneak into the event.
In the lead-up to the fight, the Pauls and the Olatunjis have been engaged in a months-long campaign to tarnish one another’s images.
The feud has been complicated by the fact that the events have taken place in England, where the fans are universally in favor of the Olatunjis. At one press conference, KSI led the audience in cheers of “she’s a hoe” in reference to Logan Paul’s girlfriend, only to have Paul flee the stage entirely. In the streets surrounding the event, a fan punched Paul’s dad, spawning an entirely new round of acrimonious videos that earned hundreds of thousand of YouTube videos.
The upcoming match has also become rich material for diss tracks, a guaranteed source of YouTube views and ad revenue.
KSI jabbed Paul last week with a comprehensive music video featuring KSI’s phantom haunting Paul through a mansion filled with reminders of his alienated friends and his family’s misdeeds, including a reference to a bizarre incident in which Paul’s father kissed a blindfolded teenager. Paul responded with a video where he said he was “just waiting” for KSI’s #MeToo moment.
The feud, at least some of which may be faked for YouTube views, reached its penultimate episode on Friday, when one of the undercard YouTube boxers set the stage by dabbing on his hater at the weigh-in. At their last pre-fight showdown, KSI appeared on the scale wearing a mask with the face of Paul’s girlfriend, while Paul kicked off the traditional pre-fight trash talk by offering his opponent a mint for his bad breath.
It’s not exactly Mike Tyson ripping off Evander Holyfield’s ear. But give them time—the clashing YouTube duo already has plans to fight next year in America.