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.
There are some obvious reasons for this. For starters, much of the mystique of Paul's boxing career faded when the influencer-turned-fighter suffered a split decision loss to Tommy Fury. The Fury fight was Paul's response to years of fighting undersized crossover athletes, mostly from the world of MMA, as the public demanded he fight a "real boxer."
Paul acquitted himself well enough in the Fury fight, scoring a knockdown and not getting totally outclassed, just outboxed. While some credit is deserved for Paul showing a commitment to boxing by not bailing the first time a fight did not go his way, the question of how far he can go in the sport seems more or less answered and now he's back to fighting a career 155-170-pound fighter from the world of MMA.
Diaz became a big name in the UFC in the same way as his older brother, Nick, by being brash but honest to his true character and entertaining in the cage.
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Diaz once called for a Conor McGregor fight in a now-iconic moment after beating Michael Johnson.
"Conor McGregor, you're taking everything I worked for, motherf---er," Diaz said. "I'm gonna fight your f---ing ass. You know what's the real fight, what's the real money fight. Me. Not these clowns that you already punked at the press conference. Ain't nobody wants to see that. You know you can beat them already. It's an easy fight. You want the real shit."
Diaz got his shot at McGregor, stepping in on less than two week's notice, participating in a series of wild press conferences and then becoming the first man to defeat McGregor in the UFC. The build to the rematch was also wild, including bottles thrown at press conferences and more physical altercations.
In the lead-up to the Paul fight, however, Diaz has seemed as though he was entirely against the idea of promoting the fight at all.
Diaz had talked plenty of trash about Paul before he wrapped up his UFC contract and became eligible for the big-money fight. There had even been backstage scuffles between the two camps. But since the fight has gotten signed? Crickets from Diaz.
Paul has repeatedly expressed frustration at Diaz's lack of promotional efforts ahead of the bout, clearly having expected some old-school Diaz smack outside of the ring to help sell the pay-per-view.
In an interview with ESPN, Diaz made it clear that he has no interest in "beef" now that the fight is signed, nor does he really care if people feel compelled to click the "buy" button.
"I don't talk a bunch of shit like he wants to do, I don't want to see him talk shit and go back and forth," Diaz said. "He said something about me f---ed up at the press conference. I'm like, I wasn't there for no argument. I don't even want to go to a press conference to argue with nobody. 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."
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.
"He's put on some of the greatest fights in the history of MMA," Paul said in the clip. "He has an amazing fanbase, people love him for a reason. I know he's coming to bring a war. That's what I said, he's ready for war. I think the fans are going to win the most out of all of this because we both don't want to lose, we both don't want to back down."
Diaz said he will return only for the clip to cut to Diaz entering a vehicle and being driven off.
Diaz has expressed an interest in returning to the UFC after the Paul fight. It doesn't seem as though boxing is a long-term plan for him.
Diaz spent years calling out Paul and got the deal done -- including a 50/50 PPV split -- and is ready to get that check and move along. There's no shame in that, nor is a lack of promotional effort an indication Diaz would do anything other than give the actual fight his full effort.
That said, Saturday is approaching quickly and there's only so much time to generate buzz. But maybe Diaz's "I don't give a f---" attitude, showcased through walking out of planned video shoots, is enough to show that Diaz is still the same guy he always has been, even if he isn't providing headline-worthy quotes.
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