There is nobody Jake Paul would rather make his MMA debut against than Nate Diaz.
Paul, a YouTube star turned boxer who is planning to cross over to cage fighting in the foreseeable future, said Wednesday on “The MMA Hour” he believes Diaz would be an ideal opponent because it’s a competitive matchup on paper.
“The opponent (for my first MMA bout) has to make a ton of sense,” Paul said. “It has to be a big name, but at the same time, it has to be a fight where I think it’s 50-50. Nate Diaz is the perfect person for that. I genuinely, wholeheartedly, in the bottom of my heart know that I could beat him. But I’d also know it’s gonna be a challenge and that I’d have to really, really, really work for it.”
Paul has tried to convince Diaz to agree to an MMA fight ever since he beat the former UFC star by unanimous decision in a high-profile boxing match in August. But Diaz has been hesitant to get on board. In October, he said he wanted to book a rematch in boxing and then a third meeting under MMA rules.
So far, the two rivals have been unable to agree on who would promote their MMA bout. Paul signed an MMA deal with the PFL earlier in 2023 and wants the fight to take place in that organization. But Diaz, a free agent who parted ways with the UFC in 2022, has said he won’t compete in the PFL. Instead, Diaz wants to co-promote the MMA fight with Paul under his Real Fight Inc. banner, similarly to their boxing match.
Paul said Diaz’s team initially showed “genuine interest” in an MMA fight, and then “there was just radio silence.” However, Paul said he still believes it will happen at some point.
“(Diaz is) just hiding behind this notion that he doesn’t want to fight in the PFL,” Paul said. “But look, man, I think eventually he’s going to need or want the money. I’m not writing it off.”
Paul said he could “potentially” make his MMA debut in 2024 as planned. But with Diaz seemingly uninterested, “The Problem Child” is still waiting for an opponent “that makes sense” to emerge. He said he wants to fight at least two or three times next year, whether in boxing or MMA.
In the meantime, Paul recently announced his return to the ring. He is scheduled to face Andre August, an unknown pro boxer with a 10-1-1 record, Dec. 15 in Orlando.
The fight represents a change in business strategies for the 26-year-old Paul, who spent the first three-plus years of his boxing career predominantly facing popular MMA fighters.
Paul said he is not done with celebrity-esque matchups and mentioned Tommy Fury and KSI as other potential foes along with Diaz. But Paul wants to win a world title one day. And he believes taking a more traditional approach as a young, up-and-coming boxer will give him the best shot of achieving that.
“This is me acting like a boxing prospect,” Paul said. “It’s me building my experience in the ring, taking challenges, and staying sharp in camp. … This is the time I need to be able to get to that level of being the best in the world. And that’s where I’m going to be, and that’s where I have my mind set on. It’s my biggest goal. This is the path to get there.
“It’s no longer about business and making all this money. … This is about real boxing now.”