Exhibition boxing has been all the rage to kick off the 2020s in combat sports.
From YouTubers to team sports players — even professional boxing legends like Mike Tyson — have gotten in on the action. Perhaps the catalyst of it all, however, was Floyd Mayweather Jr., who shocked everyone and their dog by taking a fight in Japan’s RIZIN Fighting Federation against superstar kickboxing prodigy, Tenshin Nasukawa, in Dec. 2018.
Mayweather (50-0 as a pro) unsurprisingly won the match and just two weekends ago had his second match in the RIZIN ring (his fourth exhibition overall). “Money” already has his next appearance set for Dubai on Nov. 13, 2022, but now the speculation is on regarding whether or not he’ll return to RIZIN for a third time.
Amongst the top possible options at present, there is one free agent that may be the most intriguing of them all, and RIZIN President, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, feels that could one Nate Diaz.
“Nick and Nate, they both have a great personality, their fighting style is very exciting, and we’ve known them since the PRIDE days,” Sakakibara, told MMA Mania on BROADENED HORIZIN. “We had Nick fight in PRIDE before and we’ve known them from way back. So, if we were to do something with Floyd again, we always have to talk about an opponent.
“We do think we’re at a point where we can’t just only focus on the Japanese market anymore,” he continued. “We have to target the international audience. So, with that said, Floyd’s opponent doesn’t have to be a Japanese fighter anymore. It’s just one possibility thinking about the future. Not only Floyd’s opponent, but Nate Diaz as an individual has a great amount of character, fight style, and a great following internationally. So, as an individual, he would definitely be somebody we’d be interested to be talking to.”
Mayweather’s lone RIZIN bouts thus far have led to his only stoppages in his four outings post-retirement. Sandwiched between both, the 45-year-old legend went to no-decisions against Logan Paul (watch highlights) and former training partner, Don Moore (watch highlights).
Following his recent victory, Mayweather noted how he’s just having fun with this exhibition career he’s crafted. There are no intentions of facing “actual” boxers or even past opponents like Manny Pacquiao, who was in attendance for this past Mikuru Asakura match up. Instead, Mayweather is open to any and all YouTubers or mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters.
“Floyd didn’t mention that he’s only going to fight Japanese people in Japan,” Sakakibara said. “Obviously, his next fight in Dubai, he’s fighting a British guy (Deji Olatunji), probably a YouTuber and whatnot. But as long as we can provide something that people want to see and that people talk about, as a promoter that is what we want to deliver.
“It’s always nice to show the Mayweather exhibition challenges and whatever we can do to exceed people’s expectations, that’s the goal in terms of announcing a fight,” he added. “Whatever gathers attention, surprises people, is what we want to shoot for. With that said, it would be interesting to start talking to Nate and bring up the idea to Floyd.”
The Diaz saga has been one of the bigger stories of 2022. Finally reaching the end of his road with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Diaz fought out his contract at UFC 279 last month (Sept. 10, 2022).
Leading up to his scheduled clash with Khamzat Chimaev, Diaz was abnormally vocal about how he wanted to be freed from the promotion and went as far as to express interest in fighting for Bellator. In the end, he had a change of opponent, took on Tony Ferguson, performed in a vintage fashion, scoring a fourth round guillotine submission (watch highlights), and now it’s on to whatever the Stockton, California native fancies most.
“Nate’s kind of like the global [version of the] Asakura brothers. The Diaz brothers are the global Asakura brothers,” Sakakibara said. “And who would not want to see them fight and take on Floyd Mayweather? Floyd’s been perfecting boxing his entire career and now he’s willing to do these exhibitions to fight different professionals like MMA fighters, YouTubers, and right now it’s the time where that is what sells and that is what people are entertained by. These big competitions — exhibitions — amongst different professions is something that really gathers attention and gets people talking.
“Like I said earlier, we need to not only focus on the Japanese market now, but we really want to focus on the North American market,” he continued. “If these types of matches help us get attention globally, and especially in North America, that might be the thing that we want to do. Our angle, our way of making content is to entertain people and deliver the content internationally.”
Upon Diaz’s immediate free agency, odds were released listing several names as possible opponents. Mayweather was on the list but labeled as +2000 likelihood of happening, which was the lowest on par with the aforementioned Tyson.
Diaz’s old foe, Conor McGregor, has continually expressed interest in a Mayweather rematch of his own since their Aug. 2017 encounter. For Diaz, he too is open to a trilogy with “The Notorious.” What better way to try and build the story further than by attempting to do what McGregor couldn’t and defeat Mayweather?
“Nate Diaz might even have a chance of beating Floyd, you know?” Sakakibara said. “And for us to promote that ‘what if’ factor is definitely something that we need to promote for these exhibitions against Floyd. Making the people think maybe ... that ‘if’ factor, Nate Diaz can bring all of that, so, we do think it’s a great idea.”
Watch the full episode in the video embedded above or you can listen on Spotify.