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Two popular YouTube stars have been feuding with each other for the past several months, and on Saturday, they’ll settle their beef in the boxing ring. No seriously, KSI, one of the most popular YouTubers in the world, will fight social media rival Joe Weller at the Copper Box Arena in London.
Are people actually interested? Considering the arena is completely sold out for the fight, the answer is a resounding yes.
Both YouTubers will stream the bout for free on their respective channels (KSI has 17.5 million subscribers, while 4.7 million people follow Weller), and plenty of people will be there to watch it in person. But why the heck is this fight happening in the first place?
The story goes back several years to when KSI was a member of the Sidemen, a group of seven British YouTuber gamers who focused much of their attention on FIFA. As Polygon explains, KSI along with others formed their own individual YouTube channels as their group grew in popularity, and he eventually became the most-liked YouTuber in the bunch (according to YouTube analytics site Social Blade, KSI is No. 37 in subscribers among all YouTubers in the world).
Last August, KSI left the group, and that apparently angered Weller, who was never officially in the group but who was considered a friend of the Sidemen.
Since then, the two have traded insulting videos and diss tracks. Weller has blasted KSI for insulting him about his depression, and KSI has taken offense at Weller’s body-shaming and for calling him a “geezer.” Both have hurled gay and misogynist slurs at each other as they’ve hyped the fight.
It’s unclear whether this feud is real, but it’s drawn plenty of interest. And if it is a manufactured controversy, it’s worked. As Polygon explains, KSI knows how drama on his channel can lead to increased views, writing, “KSI’s popularity on YouTube first peaked between 2009 and 2011, before making a resurgence in 2017 thanks to the series of manufactured fights between him and other YouTubers.”
Whether it’s real or fake, both YouTubers seem ready to fight.
LETS GOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/sMsCShcXlc— KSI (@KSIOlajidebt) February 2, 2018
Press conference complete ✅ Insecure people make the most noise. Tomorrow is gonna be fireworks. See you there 👊🏼— Joe Weller (@joe_weller_) February 2, 2018
Will it be a good, skillful boxing match? There’s almost no chance of that. Will millions of people be watching two amateurs wing punches at each other? Almost assuredly so. And if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter who’s victorious on Saturday because, with so much attention being paid to their feud, both KSI and Weller will have won.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.