At UFC 279 earlier this month, one of the sport’s biggest names culminated his time in the Octagon — for now, at least. In the Las Vegas-held headliner, Diaz fought out his UFC contract with a fourth-round submission victory over fellow veteran and winner of The Ultimate Fighter Tony Ferguson.
It had become clear this year that the Stockton native was looking to explore opportunities away from the promotion, and he reiterated those plans in his post-fight interview.
Since the result, talk has turned to where Diaz will turn to for his next venture in combat sports. The leading candidate has appeared to be a cross-over to boxing, with the 37-year-old hinting towards a showdown with Jake Paul earlier this year.
But while that is certainly an option, fighter-turned-analyst Chael Sonnen doesn’t believe it’s the only one. In fact, “The American Gangster” has identified one that is perhaps flying under the radar.
Sonnen: ‘Don’t Rule Out Diaz Grappling’
During a video recently uploaded to his YouTube channel, Sonnen assessed Diaz’s venture into free agency and possible future plans.
Highlighting recent comments Diaz made about his options post-UFC, Sonnen discussed the Stockton star’s ambitions for his own promotion, which news of emerged prior to UFC 279. The former WEC and UFC standout noted Diaz’s plans to incorporate multiple disciplines into events, à la ONE Championship.
“Nate Diaz came out, he was talking about Jake Paul, talking about boxing him,” Sonnen said. “He said that, ‘Absolutely, (Paul) is one of the options.’ I give you those words exact because Nate never plays with us, the audience… He didn’t say. ‘I’m looking to fight Jake Paul… let’s see how Jake does with Anderson (Silva).’ He said, ‘Absolutely, that’s one of the options.’ I believe him. But I’m not focused on Jake Paul, I’m focused on the last word, ‘Options.’
“I think he has a few things that he’s looking at… I’m not totally sold on boxing, I’m not. I think that one of Nate’s ideas that he’s going to extend into, working on this idea of a promotion on his own, is grappling,” Sonnen added. “I think he’s very much going to look at the ONE model.”
With that said, Sonnen suggested the incorporation of submission grappling could mark a leading option for Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Diaz’s next competitive appearance.
The 45-year-old explained that whilst a meeting in the ring with Paul would likely mark the biggest available for him in boxing, the star-studded hat for possible grappling opponents would be filled with intriguing names.
“Nate versus — you fill in the blank for who his opponent is gonna be with boxing, particularly if you don’t say Jake Paul,” Sonnen stated. “Whatever that answer is, I feel like you could do an equal answer if you made it grappling rules, and now you’ve opened the world to everybody.
“What if it was Khabib (Nurmagomedov) versus Nate in a grappling match? What if it was (Georges) St-Pierre versus Nate in a grappling match? I’m sharing for you, there’s options out there and we’re not seeing them. Something is happening that Nate is very sure of. He has a bird in the hand somewhere,” Sonnen continued. “We’re not seeing it. How are we missing it? … I would encourage you, keep grappling on the table.”
While a number of organizations will no doubt be after Diaz following his UFC departure, perhaps the answer to his next destination lies within his own promotional ambitions, which took a step forward when it was revealed that Diaz will be applying for his promoter’s license ahead of the creation of Real Fight, Inc.
What would you like to see Nate Diaz do next? Do you see a submission grappling contest as a possibility?