Nate Diaz will conclude his remarkable UFC career on Sept. 10 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas when he fights rising star Khamzat Chimaev in the main event of UFC 279. For several months, Diaz had gone to social media to beg for a fight so he could be done with his UFC contract and move on to other things. On July 19, the UFC granted his wish.
There have been plenty of rumors that Diaz is interested in fighting YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul after his UFC deal is concluded in a boxing match that has serious issues — Paul is 30 or more pounds bigger than Diaz, for one — but that would undoubtedly do business.
UFC president Dana White and Diaz have not always seen eye-to-eye but they have a father-son relationship compared to the relationship that exists between White and Paul. Paul, who boxes Hasim Rahman Jr. on Aug. 6 in New York in the main event of a pay-per-view boxing card, is an outspoken critic of White. White is reluctant to talk about Paul and got exasperated by the numerous Paul questions following UFC Long Island on July 16.
Yahoo Sports asked White another Paul question during a wide-ranging 23-minute interview on Tuesday, but White provided an interesting answer. Yahoo Sports asked White if he felt Diaz would face Paul after concluding his UFC contract. White said he didn’t know, but then dropped a little bomb that he said came from a one-on-one meeting with Diaz in his office.
He said Diaz told him he’d never fight Paul.
“I don’t know [if Diaz will fight Paul],” White told Yahoo Sports. “He said, ‘I would never do that.’ That’s what he said to me. He said, ‘That s***’s goofy.’ I don’t know. That’s what he said to me.”
Diaz representative Zach Rosenfield declined Tuesday to comment on a potential Paul fight or Diaz’s future. He said Diaz’s sole focus was on the Chimaev fight.
There was a lot of reaction to the UFC’s decision to pit Diaz against Chimaev and not all of it was good.
In speaking to media at UFC London last week, top-ranked welterweight Leon Edwards was critical of the UFC’s matchmaking. Edwards will face Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title on Aug. 20 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the last man to have fought Diaz, defeating him by unanimous decision on June 12 at UFC 263.
Asked about the Diaz-Chimaev match, Edwards said it wasn’t the type of fight Diaz should go out on.
“He’s done so much for the company and I wish they gave him a veteran, a nice fight to bow out to,” Edwards said. “To give him an up-and-coming guy that’s had four or five fights in the UFC, and a wrestler guy as well, I think they f***ed up. They should’ve given him a better fight.”
Former UFC fighter and broadcaster Dan Hardy said much the same thing, saying making Diaz face Chimaev felt “like a very, very cruel thing to do to someone who is a legitimate legend.”
Rosenfield told Yahoo Sports on the day the fight was announced, “It’s important to note that this is not a fight that we were offered; this is a fight we asked for.”
White sloughed off the criticism by those who believed Diaz should have been given a different opponent. White said that Diaz had asked to fight heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and Usman. Ngannou is arguably the sport’s hardest hitter and has 80 pounds on Diaz.
White said their criticism didn’t make sense.
“I love when fighters, or other people, or anybody else, gives us advice on this incredibly successful business that we’ve built,” White told Yahoo Sports. “It cracks me up. So, I’m looking at [matching Diaz with] Francis Ngannou or Khamzat Chimaev, and a couple of other ones that were not good, either. I’m going to take Khamzat.
“I can tell you this: Leon Edwards, Dan Hardy and anybody else who is out there yapping has never dealt with the Diaz brothers. It’s a very unique experience. It takes a very long f***ing time. We got through it and here we are. It’s a very popular fight that people want to see, that people like and everybody’s getting what they want. Dan Hardy and Leon Edwards don’t have to watch it. They can go to the movies that night.”
White explains O’Malley vs. Yan matchmaking
White defended the choice of Sean O’Malley, ranked No. 13 at bantamweight, to face No. 1 Petr Yan at UFC 280. The winner of that fight is likely going to meet the winner of the co-main event between champion Aljamain Sterling and former champion T.J. Dillashaw.
O’Malley’s July 2 fight with Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 was inconclusive and was ruled a no-contest because of an eye-poke.
It’s also a big leap from 13 to 1, but White expressed confidence that O’Malley was the right opponent for Yan.
“O’Malley wants to take a big jump and he’s ready for the fight,” White said. “When we started going through this thing, we started looking at who’s fighting, who’s hurt, who’s this, who’s that. It was actually Sean [Shelby, a UFC matchmaker] who said, ‘I want to do O’Malley versus Petr Yan.’ I was like, ‘What? He’s f***ing 13th, blah, blah, blah.’
“Everybody was giving their opinion and we went back and forth and I finally said, ‘F*** it. We’ll do it.’ And O’Malley really wanted the fight. … And it’s going to be fun.”
White didn’t commit when asked who new light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka would fight next, but he seemed to indicate he was leaning toward a rematch with ex-champion Glover Teixeira.
Prochazka won the belt in the waning seconds of UFC 275, but later said he wanted to rematch because he wasn’t happy with his performance.
“We like the rematch and we have so much respect for someone like Jiri who comes out of a war like that with Glover and says, ‘Yeah. I actually want the rematch,’” White said. “I don’t like it. I love that sh*t. I love that sh*t in the fighter.”