‘His boxing career is on the line’: Inside the high-stakes Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz matchup

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LOS ANGELES — Nate Diaz got here out of one of many six bedrooms of a preposterously massive villa overlooking the luxury Bel-Air Nation Membership and walked down a spiral staircase.

Diaz, sporting a Mike Tyson T-shirt, light denims and black Travis Scott Nike Air Jordan sneakers, slipped on a black baseball cap with a white “R” on the entrance, for his sponsor Signify, after which took it off. He did the identical for a pair of black Ray-Ban sun shades.

“Hat or no hat?” Diaz requested just a few members of his crew, together with his president of Actual Combat Inc., Zach Rosenfield, and cinematographer Elijah Gutierrez. “Shades or no shades?”

Each gave a thumbs-up, however Diaz wasn’t feeling the hat, so he forged it apart. He then walked onto the stone balcony of the rental residence within the hills and settled right into a white chair for a video interview. Under him was a pool space with a small waterfall and sizzling tub. Under that, a lush, 18-hole golf course.

Diaz’s first combat exterior of the UFC in 17 years was lower than three weeks away, a boxing match towards widespread YouTuber-turned-prizefighter Jake Paul. The 2 males are 50-50 companions within the pay-per-view occasion. Paul had expressed disappointment within the media with how Diaz was selling the combat, with little to no trash discuss.

This interview was Diaz’s likelihood to show up the warmth, to start out slinging some insults Paul’s means. To promote extra pay-per-views.

He balked.

“I feel my preventing from over time promotes my fights,” Diaz advised ESPN. “I am not gonna get in a little-kid argument with the man and act like [it’s] any realer than it’s. Do not get no realer than this anyway.

“If we will argue, we’re gonna combat.”

Diaz, one of many greatest MMA stars of his era, does issues on his phrases. He will not be prompted or swayed by exterior forces — in any other case, he may nonetheless be within the UFC. Paul is not so totally different in that regard. For the previous three years, he is been disrupting boxing, placing on main occasions exterior the normal promotion components. In one another, Diaz, the road robust from Stockton, and Paul, the previous Disney Channel child, have discovered the proper dance companion for this pivotal second of their respective careers.

It took slightly time for them and their groups to comprehend that. Diaz had potential fights with Floyd Mayweather and Paul’s brother, Logan, on the desk. Paul had choices together with Mayweather, fellow YouTuber-turned-prizefighter KSI and a rematch with Tommy Fury. In the end, a number of elements, together with the real-life heated historical past between them, led Diaz and Paul to determine on one another.

Within the style of crossover boxing — one which Paul has pioneered — this 10-round match on Aug. 5 in Dallas would be the highest-stakes one but.

In methods massive and small, the results of this matchup will tremendously impression the way forward for each combat careers and what may very well be subsequent for this present pattern of influencers in fight sports activities. Nakisa Bidarian, the co-founder of Paul’s Most Precious Promotions, believes this may very well be Paul’s last boxing match.

“He could retire if he loses to Nate Diaz,” Bidarian advised ESPN.



Why Max calls Nate Diaz the proper opponent for Jake Paul

Max Kellerman breaks down why Nate Diaz is the proper opponent for Jake Paul.

Rosenfield and Bidarian had a video name simply hours after Paul misplaced by way of cut up choice to Fury on Feb. 26. Bidarian was nonetheless in Saudi Arabia, the location of the bout. He and Rosenfield had been discussing a possible combat between Diaz and Paul since Diaz turned freed from his UFC contract in late 2022.

Bidarian mentioned Paul preventing Diaz after Fury was “all the time” their crew’s plan. However Rosenfield knew Diaz would not have an interest anymore as a result of Paul misplaced, which he advised Bidarian on their name after congratulating him on a profitable promotion and asking about Paul’s well being.

“Effectively, it will have been enjoyable,” Rosenfield mentioned to Bidarian on the cellphone in February. “Good luck chasing your rematch. … Possibly we’ll see you down the highway.”

The 2 sides then moved in several instructions. Paul mentioned he needed to combat Fury once more, a pure response after the primary defeat of his younger boxing profession. There have been additionally talks with Mayweather, which included a face-to-face confrontation in Miami, and social media banter with KSI, who, together with Jake and Logan Paul, helped launch the influencer boxing craze.

Diaz, in the meantime, had a number of irons within the hearth, too. His crew was additionally in discussions with Mayweather. A combat between Diaz and Logan received very shut — so shut that Logan advised his youthful brother that Diaz was his subsequent combat.

Rosenfield mentioned there was a “very attention-grabbing and enticing supply” on the desk for Diaz to combat Logan. However WWE received concerned, and Diaz soured on the concept. Logan has turn into a prime attraction for the professional wrestling firm, and former WWE co-CEO Stephanie McMahon mentioned at a summit final 12 months that the promotion was taken with entering into boxing.

“The WWE got here in after which they needed to take over the entire thing,” Diaz advised ESPN. “And I am like, ‘I simply received out of the UFC, why am I going to signal with WWE?’ I combat for actual. I am not gonna be doing an actual combat on a WWE card or no humorous s— like that.”

Logan mentioned he heard that was one in all Diaz’s causes for not being any longer, calling it a “weak cop-out.”

“You may nonetheless be an actual fighter with the most important sports activities group on the earth selling your combat,” Logan advised ESPN. “It is slightly lame to me, and I can undoubtedly promote extra tickets. I see what he is doing. I am the tougher combat. I am the larger brother, I am the stronger brother, I am the quicker brother.”

WWE didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the matter.

Paul began to vary his tune a few Fury rematch, too, when he realized that the loss actually did not harm his inventory within the eyes of followers or media. KSI, Bidarian mentioned, was an opponent Paul placed on the again burner for later this 12 months or past. Bidarian felt it solely made sense for Paul to combat a “authentic opponent” once more, which led to Paul’s crew making a proposal to Mayweather.

Whereas Diaz’s crew was in talks with Logan (and Mayweather) and Paul’s crew was speaking to Mayweather, Rosenfield received to his Los Angeles residence on the night time of March 8 and popped on an interview with actor and comic Michael Rapaport from “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani. The subjects of Diaz and Paul got here up.



Paul: It is a do-or-die combat for me and Diaz

Jake Paul speaks within the information convention forward of the boxing grudge combat towards UFC star Nate Diaz in Dallas.

“Nate Diaz versus Jake Paul?” Rapaport mentioned. “You need smoke? F— with Nate Diaz. I might pay $199.99.”

Rosenfield mentioned all of it turned clear to him after watching that. The brash Paul had been somebody whom followers, particularly from MMA, needed to see get his comeuppance. He had overwhelmed former UFC champions Tyron Woodley and Anderson Silva in boxing, the previous by way of one-punch knockout. Diaz himself felt like Paul has talked disrespectfully about MMA fighters. Diaz slapped a member of Paul’s crew backstage in October earlier than Paul’s combat with Silva. Paul then referred to as out Diaz in his postfight interview, telling Diaz to “cease being a b—- and combat me.”

Primarily based on the interview with Rapaport, Rosenfield realized that Paul had misplaced none of that “heel warmth,” to borrow a professional wrestling time period, in his loss to Fury. There was nonetheless a narrative between Paul and Diaz that had been left unexplored.

“So, from the outsider’s standpoint, you are questioning how Jake is absolutely acquired,” Rosenfield mentioned. “And what Michael was in a position to present is there’s nonetheless very a lot this need for the appropriate man to return in and finish this for him. We began considering, ‘Effectively, possibly this is smart.’ Possibly it is our alternative, from a enterprise standpoint, to place an finish to Jake Paul boxing, whereas he can really feel the identical means and get what he is been chasing for years, which was the chance to combat Nate.”

Rosenfield referred to as Bidarian and advised him as a lot. Then the 2 of them referred to as their respective enterprise companions, who have been on board. And the negotiations started. There have been loads of issues to debate, from funds to pay-per-view distribution to weight to variety of rounds. The very important settlement from the start was that Paul’s Most Precious Promotions and Diaz’s Actual Combat Inc. could be 50-50 companions on all the things. Issues have been set in movement as soon as Paul and Diaz gave their sign-off. The combat was introduced on April 12.

“Jake has had that [drawing] energy on his personal, however he is by no means had a real peer, aspect by aspect, that may carry an occasion himself,” Bidarian mentioned. “Now there’s two ‘A’ sides preventing for the primary time in Jake’s profession.”

Whereas Diaz has mentioned he desires to combat solely folks coming off a win, Rosenfield mentioned Diaz noticed similarities to his personal UFC defeats in Paul’s loss to Fury. Paul was the one one who scored a knockdown in that combat, within the last spherical — not in contrast to when Diaz fought present UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards in 2021 and rocked him with a punch within the fifth spherical, arguably probably the most damaging single blow of the bout.

“Jake’s the one doing the most important issues,” Diaz mentioned. “I imagine he is the more durable brother. He is the one who’s been boxing extra folks and at the next stage. He is motivated and hungry and shifting ahead. And I am on the identical web page as that.”

Paul knocked out ex-NBA veteran Nate Robinson in November 2020 on the undercard of an exhibition match between legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. Then, he knocked out former MMA champion and Olympic wrestler Ben Askren in April 2021.

All of the whereas, Paul created a ton of consideration for himself on social media and in interviews. Logan, who had two widespread boxing matches with KSI, then fought Mayweather in an exhibition in June 2021. Influencers and celebrities have been getting within the ring and boxing turned massive enterprise, seemingly in a single day. MMA fighters, together with former UFC champions, have been additionally getting in on the motion. Some promotions that simply placed on that style of fights began to sprout up in a number of international locations.

Paul felt liable for the increase and the potential bubble bursting on this newly developed commodity, for higher or worse.

“For the longest time, I used to be carrying the influencer boxing wave and my worst worry was shedding, as a result of I did not know what would occur on the opposite aspect of that,” Paul mentioned.

Experiencing his first loss, towards Fury, has modified that. Paul is not any much less of a star now than he was earlier than, and influencer boxing retains on trucking.

“I feel the loss really made me extra relatable, as a result of for some motive folks consider celebrities as not people,” Paul mentioned. “If something, it is grown my fan base and given me the chance to return again, and other people see now how critical I’m about it, doubling down now after a loss.”

Some would say he is even put himself right into a nook. Paul, 26, is greater than a 3-1 betting favourite over the 38-year-old Diaz, so folks count on him to win and win massive. That is a harmful place to be in towards Diaz, who has made a profession out of being the sturdy underdog with otherworldly cardio. Simply ask Conor McGregor, whom Diaz handed his first UFC loss in 2016 after weathering an enormous storm of haymakers.

A loss to Diaz might change the course of Paul’s profession.

“His boxing profession is on the road, by way of being one of many prime three or 4 guys in the complete sport globally,” Bidarian mentioned, referring to Paul’s drawing energy. “I feel if he was to lose, he’d simply go to being one other prospect that is arising within the ring.”

If Paul beats Diaz, he is hoping to lure him into doing an MMA combat in PFL, which Paul has signed with as an fairness companion and for a future run in MMA. Paul and PFL have provided Diaz $10 million for that doable combat, which Rosenfield confirmed is authentic.

Diaz mentioned he may very well be open to that, however he is dealing with his personal main stakes. One of many greatest fights in fight sports activities historical past, a trilogy with McGregor, continues to be on the market, and Diaz has made it identified he is keen to return to the UFC for large fights that he finds attention-grabbing. If he beats Paul, ending the story with McGregor — in addition to a number of different fights just like the aforementioned bouts with Mayweather and Logan — turns into even larger. With a loss, it is onerous to say. Relying on what the combat with Paul seems like, Diaz’s leverage may very well be diminished.

“Every part modifications with each combat,” Diaz mentioned.

Diaz is already a legend in fight sports activities, and a win or loss right here will not essentially have an effect on that. However an unpleasant defeat might impression his future negotiating energy and the cachet of a 3rd combat with McGregor.

“I do not assume his place within the sport is at stake,” Bidarian mentioned of Diaz. “I simply assume it is about what’s subsequent for him and the way a lot leverage does he have in dictating what’s subsequent versus having to just accept what’s subsequent.”

Plus, if Paul wins, he is made no secret that he desires to combat McGregor in boxing and he’s keen to work with the UFC and mother or father firm Endeavor to make it occur.

“I see a roadmap the place I knock out Nate after which go to Conor McGregor,” Paul advised ESPN in Could. “[I can] do what Conor could not do — knock out Nate. After which that’ll be the most important combat in fight sports activities that would presumably be made, is me versus Conor.”

Win or lose, Saturday can be a profitable night time for each males. Paul and Diaz will every make “properly into the eight figures,” per Rosenfield, who added that every fighter will make seven figures simply from the occasion’s sponsors on the ring alone. Paul and Diaz will get cuts of pay-per-view buys, ticket gross sales and merchandise, and the cash from their very own sponsors.

That is new territory for Diaz, who complained earlier than the ultimate combat on his UFC contract final September that he needed to put on Underneath Armour footwear from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s line and he wasn’t getting paid for that. The UFC additionally takes round 80% of its income yearly, per revelations from an ongoing lawsuit, with the fighters getting the remainder. By comparability, the most important crew sports activities leagues in the USA cut up income evenly between house owners and gamers. On this bout, Paul and Diaz will get the overwhelming majority of the income.

“Overlook about how a lot he is making,” Rosenfield mentioned. “It is the place he is making it. And if you begin to have a look again at Nate Diaz interviews the place he could be complaining about not being paid his price, his price goes far past simply what he is doing as a career. Folks and corporations are paying to see him combat, and now he’s going to be paid [directly] by these folks to combat.”

With Paul and Diaz splitting that pay-per-view cash evenly, Paul mentioned Diaz is “capturing himself within the foot” by not speaking extra trash and drumming up additional curiosity within the combat. However Diaz refuses to play Paul’s sport. Rosenfield mentioned that Paul had completed an excellent job in previous fights making his opponents “subordinate” to him, and Diaz is not going to fall into that entice.

Whether or not it is deciding on a hat or sun shades or whether or not to flip Paul a double chook, Diaz goes to do what Diaz does. Particularly now, after being within the UFC for practically 20 years, he controls his personal future, in addition to the future of others. Paul, oddly sufficient, finds himself in the same place. They’re the proper pairing for one another on the excellent time.

“I am speaking about actual boss s—,” Diaz mentioned. “And that was my plan the entire time. And that is a part of being the perfect fighter on the earth. Nobody’s going to inform me what to do.”

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