When Nate Diaz left the UFC as a free agent, he had a lot of options available. But his first appearance back in the ring is against Jake Paul.
Diaz is only interested in the biggest fights possible, especially after gaining the ability to negotiate his own deals. The 38-year-old fighter couldn’t imagine anything much better than clashing with Paul, whom he meets in a boxing match scheduled for Aug. 5 in Dallas.
“My plan in fighting is to always fight the biggest names, and the best fighters there are,” Diaz said during a pre-fight press conference on Tuesday. “I’ve been trying to get out of the UFC for a long time, because I knew what I was worth, what fighters are worth and what I should do.
“It was a long road, but when I was on the way out, [Jake Paul] was doing the biggest and the best things outside in fighting and for fighting, and I was glad I had a worthy opponent to make an attack on as soon as I got out.”
Despite a 19-year career in MMA with over 15 years spent in the UFC, Diaz had long desired the chance to crossover to boxing, but he was never afforded that opportunity.
Once he was able to fight out his previous UFC contract, Diaz jumped at the chance to test himself in the ring with boxing as arguably his first real love in combat sports.
“I would have been a pro boxer when I was 18 years old but a cage fight came up first so I was stuck in a cage my whole career,” he explained. There were times when I got locked in a contract right away from the UFC. So I was already locked down from the beginning.
“I wanted to get out and do boxing, but it was contract after contract and s***. It was a chain reaction the whole time. I was just locked in longer and longer. I’ve been going to boxing gyms since I’m 15 years old, sparring pro boxers, and I don’t think I’ve ever got my ass whipped in a boxing gym and not come back and been the last guy to win the rounds. I’ve always wanted to box. Like I said, I feel like I was a pro boxer the whole time.”
Heading into his first professional boxing match, Diaz doesn’t feel like he’s representing the sport of MMA in the fight with Paul – he refuses to see himself labeled as such.
Diaz was upset when Paul’s last opponent Tommy Fury tried to paint him as an MMA fighter who might try his hand at boxing.
“I was taking offense because I was being stereotyped as an MMA fighter,” Diaz said. “Tommy Fury was saying ‘they’re MMA fighters who [Jake Paul] is fighting.’ I was offended because he was saying these were MMA fighters and not boxers but Anderson Silva would whoop Tommy Fury’s ass so that was kind of stupid. But I don’t like being stereotyped as an MMA fighter.
“Every fight I fight in MMA, I was training just like any boxer trains for a boxing match, sparring pros, hitting mitts, running and doing all of the boxing workouts and more sparring that probably anybody and that was just part of the time. The rest of the time I had to do all the other s***. I’m glad I get to come here and showcase my skills in boxing.”
When it comes to Paul as an opponent, Diaz complimented the former YouTuber for developing himself into a serious fighter with a desire to evolve and progress his career to even higher levels. That’s exactly the kind of fighter he wants to face.
“He’s young, he’s motivated, he’s working hard. I can see that,” Diaz said about Paul. “I’m sure everybody can see that. That kind of motherf****** is unstoppable. That’s the kind of people I want to fight.
“That’s why I wanted to fight Conor [McGregor] and the top guys. Any time I took time off from my fights when I wasn’t fighting was because I wanted to fight a top guy, and they wanted to give me some lame ass motherf******. I’m fighting the best of the best. I’m here to let motherf****** know that I do a great job, too.”
Both fighters will have a lot riding on this matchup, but Diaz in particular is obviously betting big on himself after leaving the UFC in free agency. It doesn’t sound like he’s sweating the pressure, however, because he isn’t going anywhere afterward – no matter the result.
“I don’t plan on losing to anybody, but no matter what happens, I’ll be here forever,” Diaz said. “I’ll be fighting. I’ll be here whipping ass the whole time.”