The YouTuber and social media takeover of combat sports is well and truly underway, as personalities who shot to fame online feel the need to prove their worth in the squared circle.
This has sent some people back to the bad old days of the circus attractions of yesteryear, where members of the general public tried their hand at fighting a professional boxer or wrestler.
However, as television networks do battle with online streaming platforms such as Triller and Twitch, it appears that virtually anyone these days can set foot in a boxing ring or MMA octagon and call themselves a pro fighter.
This trend began in earnest all the way back in 2018 when KSI faced Logan Paul in a boxing match that took place in Manchester, England.
The financial numbers that the fight generated were reported to have been huge, especially seeing as all the build-up to the fight had taken place on the fighters’ respective social media platforms, which boasted millions of followers.
Of course, the latest installment of this recent trend has been Logan’s brother, Jake, taking on a string of no-hopers, before then finally picking on retired UFC star Ben Askren. In fairness, Askren might have put up more of a fight had he bothered to get in any kind of worthwhile physical condition, and it is yet to be seen if Jake Paul is a genuine force in pugilism or not. He is purported to be fighting Floyd Mayweather next, so reality might come calling sooner rather than later.
That said, there is no doubt that the Paul brothers and other social media stars like them are on to a financial winner and are helping to launch new and exciting combat sports broadcasters, like the aforementioned Triller.
Here we take a look beyond the combat sports world, to see which other sports social media celebrities are taking over, one click and swipe at a time.
Online platforms such as YouTube are increasingly becoming the home of a variety of combat sports and that looks set to continue with the rise of DAZN and Triller to name but two
Grappling with Classic Mind Sports
Social media personalities are not always renowned for their razor-sharp intellect nor their dedication to anything aside from garnering more clicks and follows.
However, there are some who are taking time out of their busy schedules to test their mental mettle in classic mind sports such as chess and poker.
The difference with these sports is that they are welcoming such free attention with open arms, unlike combat sports, which are often wary of outsiders and imposters.
One chess grandmaster leading this charge is Hikaru Nakamura, who has become the go-to figure for chess fans who want to watch the best in the game do battle on live streams via Twitch. He has teamed up with plenty of online influencers like Forsen and xQcOW, who he has invited onto his stream to give different chess variations a try. Similarly, pro poker players are being enlisted by YouTube sensations like True Geordie, with the podcast legend recently obtaining coaching from a well-known poker high roller, before launching himself into a few high stakes tournaments.
With so much overlap between the world of online mind sports and content creators on Twitch and YouTube, people can expect a whole lot more crossover in the months and years to come.
Chess is one of the classic online games that social media stars are taking a shot at, with pretenders getting found out a lot quicker than those who take up boxing
Athletics, But Not as We Know It
There is no doubt that the popularity of track and field athletics has been waning for a while, as events like the Olympics and Athletics World Championships are usually only watched for 10 seconds by the general public, simply to see who the fastest man or woman in the world is.
Here to save the day for track and field athletics are YouTubers, who back in 2019 launched their very own version of an athletics meet in the form of The Challenger Games, or the YouTube Olympics as many people on social media coined them.
The idea was to take a whole host of the most popular social media influencers and pit them against each other in everything from the hurdles to the 400m.
Thankfully, there was more focus on fun and frolics rather than the athletic competition, which was sadly lacking in a field of people who normally spend more time glued to screens rather than getting themselves in elite athletic shape.
And social media stars have not given up on this concept, because a new outdoor adventure competition has been spawned from The Challenger Games. This new event is called the Aphetor Games and sees the same group of influencers testing themselves in extreme outdoor pursuits, all set against the dramatic backdrop of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales.
Seeping into the Fabric of the Beautiful Game
While for the most part social media influencers and content creators have been trying to dominate niche sports such as MMA and boxing, there are signs that before long they will also begin to make serious inroads into huge sports such as football.
This has been evidenced by the ways in which some humble fan YouTube channels, such as Arsenal’s AFTV, have grown to dominate the discourse that goes on in and around some of the world’s biggest and most successful football clubs. So much so that Robbie Lyle, who runs AFTV, has become a powerful trendsetter and demander of change at the club, even if it is unlikely he is about to dust off his footy boots anytime soon.
Who knows, maybe Jake Paul will next try his hand at American Football or a game of soccer? Or perhaps the influencer takeover in sports such as football will take place in the media and in-stadium boardrooms, rather than out on the field of play.