By Ben Fowlkes
April 21, 2011

At least in his own mind, Nick Diaz has run out of mountains to climb. After his most recent Strikeforce welterweight title defense, against Paul Daley, he has declared himself officially out of challengers.

He's sick of MMA and its meager paydays, and now he's ready to move on to greener pastures in the world of professional boxing, or so he says.

As with anything that comes out of a Diaz rant, the reasoning at work here is not necessarily rock solid. There are still interesting fights left for him in MMA, and besides, boxing might not turn out to be the land of plenty that he imagines it to be.

But just because he might be justifying the potential move with questionable rationale, that doesn't mean he can't do it. By all means, this is one little experiment that might prove to be more interesting than its motives are sound.

As Diaz explained on a recent episode of Inside MMA, the 27-year-old thinks he needs boxing because MMA is devoid of both challengers and money.

"They don't have anybody else for me to fight right now," Diaz said. "I'm better than all these guys they have. The guys they have ranked above me, I'm sure they don't want to fight me. I don't see much of a future in this sport for me. I honestly don't, especially if there's not a whole s---load of money going on."

Lest we assume it's just empty talk from a fighter who's known to have a strained relationship with reality at times, his longtime manager, Cesar Gracie, says they've already taken the necessary contractual steps to make a boxing match happen. All they need is a willing opponent, such as former champ Jeff Lacy, who said in a press release this week that he'd be more than willing to box Diaz "[f]or the right price."

But it's one thing to talk about abandoning MMA in favor of boxing, and another thing to actually do it. For a guy who's had a great deal of success as an MMA fighter, Diaz sure doesn't seem to enjoy the sport very much. It's too much suffering and pain for too little money, he says. He actually referred to his life as an MMA fighter as "a living hell" because it consisted of nothing but training and fighting.

Whether he thinks a boxing career will be any less hellish in that sense, or whether he simply thinks it will be a more lucrative hell, is still unclear. All he seems to know for sure is that he wants to give it a try, and his management doesn't see any reason why he can't.

So now the question becomes: Can Diaz seriously do this? And if so, will boxing be the golden goose he imagines it to be?

We've seen his striking skills on display in MMA bouts for years, as the jiu-jitsu black belt has opted to stand and trade punches rather than look for submissions. He's been a semi-regular sparring partner of Andre Ward's recently, and he must feel he does well enough in those sessions to justify giving it a shot.

Technically, Diaz isn't the slickest striker even in MMA. He takes too many punches, and seems entirely unconcerned with defense, but he's still one of the few MMA fighters who make effective use of body punches. That's fine against opponents who have also trained to be wary of takedowns and leg kicks, but in the highly specialized world of pro boxing, it may not be enough.

But OK, let's say for the sake of argument that Diaz isn't looking to spend the next decade as a pro boxer. Maybe he just wants one or two big paydays while he waits for Strikeforce to build a title fight for him or the UFC to slot him into a more lucrative fight with one of its champions. Why not try to make some money with the big gloves on in the meantime?

But the problem for Diaz is that while MMA and boxing might share a love of pay-per-view revenues, the crossover between the two audiences is questionable. Most boxing fans don't know enough about Diaz to be interested in seeing him fight Lacy, and most MMA fans have no idea who Lacy is. Maybe a sizable portion of each fan base will tune in just to root for its guy, but probably not if they're going to be asked to fork over $50 for the privilege.

In other words, if Diaz thinks that becoming a boxer will result in instant Manny Pacquiao-sized paydays, he'd better think again. History has shown us that it's more lucrative to go between pro wrestling and MMA than to shuffle between boxing and the cage.

Can boxing promoters beat the low six-figure salary that Strikeforce is paying him? Probably. Will Diaz be more successful in the sweet science than he's been in MMA? In the long run, probably not.

But just like the boxers who thought there'd be nothing to stepping in the cage and knocking out MMA fighters, why not let Diaz try it out for himself? Surely it will be promoted as an MMA vs. boxing showdown, even though it won't be that any more than Randy Couture vs. James Toney was, but who cares?

The worst that happens is that Diaz finds out the hard way that the big boxing paydays are reserved for the big boxing superstars, and that life can be just as hard when your training is limited to throwing and dodging punches exclusively.

Whenever he's done, and for whatever reasons, MMA will still be here for him to come back to. And as much as he might claim to hate the sport, chances are it will still love him even then.

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