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Either way, Saturday’s fight likely marks the end of Paul’s boxing run against MMA legends. There simply aren’t many MMA names left who’d make sense for Paul if he gets past Diaz.
“Conor McChicken, he don’t want the smoke,” Paul said. “He’s an alcoholic, he’s a drug addict. He’s out there causing all these problems, about to go to jail for all this crazy s***. He’s not even worried about fighting right now. Right now he’s worried about being a free man.”
Jake Paul looks to add another UFC fan-favorite to his hit list when he meets Nate Diaz in the boxing ring. Paul vs. Diaz headlines the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Saturday night.
Paul's foray into this half-celebrity, half-professional boxing venture hit its first snag in February. Paul suffered the first defeat of his seven-fight pro career in a split decision loss to his most experienced boxing opponent yet, Tommy Fury. Paul vs. Diaz is an enormous fight when it comes to name value. Diaz is among the most celebrated and beloved fighters in mixed martial arts history.
Paul (6-1) is the driving force behind the crossover boxing craze that has seen influences step into the ring against each other or former athletes from other sports such as the UFC, NBA and NFL. Although Paul's first couple fights appeared to be aimed at settling online beefs, he developed a passion for the sport and asked to be taken seriously as a professional boxer.
The recognition he craves has been hard to come by, though many professional boxers have praised his work ethic and many combat sport athletes support Paul because the social media star has been an advocate for raising fighter pay in all sports. Paul has also seen some success as a promoter in women's boxing.
Paul answered some of his critics by taking on a professional boxer in his last bout, although Tommy Fury's credentials also have been questioned. Fury showed superior fundamentals, but Paul landed a few big shots and scored an eighth-round knockdown before coming up short on the scorecards.
As far as former MMA fighters are concerned, Diaz (21-13) brings more credibility than most. He and his older brother, Nick Diaz, are widely seen as iconic UFC figures who trained in a variety of disciplines. The Diaz brothers were known to regularly train with high-level boxers, such as former super middleweight champion Andre Ward, who once predicted either of the Diaz brothers could have been a top-10 boxer had they chosen that sport.
If we're gonna argue, we're gonna fight, so let's just stay the f--- away from each other before the fight, pardon my language. ... I'm in an important point of my career where it's like, I'm not trying to scare anybody, I'm not trying to fool anybody. If people want to watch, that'd be great. If they don't, that's fine too."
Diaz finished his UFC contract with a submission of Tony Ferguson in September of last year. Although he was long believed to covet the boxing match against Paul and accompanying payday, he said little about it publicly until the fight was announced a couple months ago.
Diaz now joins former UFC champions Tyron Woodley and Anderson Silva, as well as former Bellator and ONE champion Ben Askren, as MMA fighters to face Paul in the boxing ring. And while Paul made it clear that he holds Diaz’s MMA accomplishments in high esteem, he doesn’t think nearly as highly of his brash opponent’s actions outside of the cage.
“I respect his career, I don’t respect him as a person,” Paul said. “There’s a difference. He’s a bully, he’s a punk. He beats up innocent people. He’s always trying to cause a scene, throwing water bottles at people. He’s always high. Like, what kind of example is that to set to everyone, just smoking all the f****** time? I don’t like these things about him. And someone has to bully the bully, and that’s what I’m going to do on Saturday.”
“I’m not concerned. I know I want it more and I know what I did in training, and we had people that mimic exactly how he fights. And yeah, he’s going to maybe land a couple of punches, that’s the name of the game. That only wakes me up. I’m going to get hit and hit him harder, and keep on going and weather the storm and end his career.”
There was a point not long ago when a boxing match between Jake Paul and Nate Diaz would generate substantial buzz, even from those who spent their time trashing the bout. With the two set to meet on Saturday night, it seems clear that window has closed, with generally no real attention being paid to the impending clash.
On Tuesday evening, Ariel Helwani tweeted out a short video from a face-to-face he hosted with the two fighters. The clip, which does lack full context, sees Paul speaking highly of Diaz, rather than engaging in the trash talk Diaz said he'd like to avoid, when Diaz first raises his hand and then stands up and walks out.