Just under three years ago when K.J. Noons defeated Nick Diaz to win the EliteXC lightweight title, it appeared the young Hawaiian was on his way to becoming one of the best fighters in his weight class. A contract dispute, a company implosion, and a return to boxing derailed that ascent, but now with Strikeforce, Noons is perched to make another run at becoming one of the best in the world.
Funny enough, the fight that could get him to that spot once again is a championship bout against Nick Diaz.
Now the Strikeforce welterweight champion, Diaz has established himself as one of the best fighters on the planet, but he hasn’t forgotten that Noons was the last fighter to put a loss on his record.
Even though 155 pounds is his home, Noons says there wasn’t even a thought to turn down a rematch with the welterweight belt on the line, and a chance to prove that their first go round was no fluke.
“Easy answer, yes,” Noons told MMAWeekly Radio about his reaction when Strikeforce offered him the fight. “He’s the best at 170, and I get to kind of kill two birds with one stone. I get to fight the best, and I get to move up and fight for a title also.”
To say that Noons and Diaz don’t like each other is almost like stating Democrats and Republicans have slightly different philosophies when it comes to politics. There is no love lost between the two fighters both based out of California, but Noons knows that too much emotion in a fight can cost you, so he leaves that outside the cage.
“There’s motivation because no matter how much trash talk, this or that, all the bad (expletive) I can say about Nick, he’s still a good fighter,” Noons stated. “No matter how you look at it, he’s got the title, he’s beaten a lot of good guys, and he’s the best at 170. You can’t ignore that fact.”
Diaz has been able to play head games with many past opponents, and he’s pulled them right into his strategy time and time again. It’s that very mindset that Noons doesn’t read too much into because if he believes Diaz is only going to fight one way, it could cost him come Saturday night.
“I would have to be stupid to think that he’s just going to come out and stand and bang,” said Noons. “I’m sure there will be some emotion, but I’ve got my game plan too.”
The game plan the last time out was for Noons to stuff the takedowns from Diaz, and proceed to punish his opponent with superior boxing and punching power. To survive in mixed martial arts, fighters are forced to get better or face the possibility of fading away, so Noons understands that Diaz is probably better than three years ago.
He’s just not that much different.
“He’s the same fighter as we fought back then. A little bit bigger, maybe he got a little bit better, but so have I. You ask me, he’s the same fighter,” Noons said.
He insists, however, that he is a much better fighter than when the two met last, and his message to Diaz is simple.
“Bring my belt, that’s all I’m saying,” Noons said. “Bring my strap.”
Noons and Diaz will square off Saturday night in San Jose, Calif., with the Strikeforce welterweight title on the line.