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K.J. Noons plans to keep belt


Karl James Noons was a relative unknown in the mixed martial arts world a few years ago, but what a difference a couple of fights make. The boxer-turned mixed martial artist made his name known at EliteXC's debut show, Destiny, last February. His opponent at the time, the outspoken Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett, had gotten the best of Noons in that bout with a knockout in the first round.

Noons has rebounded well, knocking out Edson Berto with a knee and then taking out the highly-touted Cesar Gracie disciple, Nick Diaz for the vacant EliteXC lightweight championship.

Since the fight with Diaz ended controversially on a cut, Diaz has been very vocal about getting a rematch with Noons. Prior to the end of the fight, Noons damaged Diaz with some prolific combinations, utilizing a strong takedown defense. "Sometimes it gets on my nerves," Noons said. "Sometimes it doesn't. Most times I just say, 'watch the fight'. It is what it is."

The lightweight division has consistently put on exciting fights throughout the years. The dynamics and intensity of the fighters is second to none, and most hardcore fans would agree that the upcoming lightweight championship bout between K.J. Noons and Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Yves Edwards should have been the headliner on CBS-EliteXC Saturday Night Fights a few weeks ago. Noons believes that would have been a tremendous opportunity. "That would have been awesome. But it is what it is."

The upcoming bout between Noons and Edwards may not be on CBS, but it will be on Showtime for the fans to enjoy. "Every fight that I've seen Yves in, it's been exciting. Every fight that I'm in is exciting. I think it's going to be a great match-up. It's going to be an exciting fight."

Edwards has a wealth of experience coming into this fight, and is widely seen as the favorite to take Noons' title away from him. Noons, however, just uses his underdog status as motivation to come in and surprise everyone. "I'm just super motivated to come out and win this one," he said. "This guy has won so many fights. I'm coming in as the underdog. It just motivates me to train harder."

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In fact, he feels that all of the pressure is on the challenger due to him being expected to beat the champ. "Truthfully, being in my hometown in front of my family and friends, I don't feel pressure at all. It's just an amazing opportunity to fight in Hawaii. If anything, he's the one that's supposed to win. No pressure on me."

Hawaii will host this event and Noons is delighted to come back and fight where he started his career. "The fans are amazing in Hawaii," he explained. "They're so die-hard. It's so much fun fighting in front of them. I started in ICON. I was the first fight out. Now I'm bringing the title there. It's crazy. Fighting is really part of the culture growing up. That's why they love it so much."

Noons came into his last fight, against Diaz, with strong conditioning; and according to the champ he's in even better shape than he was before. "I'm in amazing shape. I didn't think there was any way to train harder. I'm better as a fighter all around. My record is 5-1 in MMA and being so young in the game, I'm still a student. I just want to be well-rounded. I trained super hard for this fight. I just want to get in there and mix it up. If you like to root for the underdog, root for K.J. Noons."

He has done his best to evolve in his young career from a boxer to a complete mixed martial artist. In fact, he's been training so diligently in all aspects of the game that he didn't formulate a game plan for Edwards. "I don't even have a game plan," commented Noons. "I just train every aspect. Yves is such a great fighter. He's so good all around. Every aspect. Growing up, I looked up to him as a fighter. Now we're fighting each other."

While this fight with Edwards is at the top of his priority list, Noons would love to continue his boxing career following this fight. Sporting an 8-1 record in the sweet science, Noons believes he is currently a more talented boxer than mixed martial artist. "Most definitely. I'm not looking past Yves Edwards this Saturday. After that, I want to move forward in my boxing career. I'm a much better boxer than I am in MMA."

One thing is for sure this weekend, and that is that Noons wants to walk away with the belt. "I'm looking forward to my hand being raised and the belt's coming home with me."

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