With No. 1 Contender Spot On The Line, Stakes Are High For Strikeforce’s K.J. Noons This Saturday
By Gerald Hanks
Fighting is in 29 year-old K.J. Noons’ blood.
His father, Karl Noons, was a pro kickboxer who trained with the legendary Chuck Norris in the 1970s. Growing up in Hawaii, K.J. spent almost as much time on a surfboard as he did on his feet, so pro surfing could have been a career option. When he attended Clements High School in suburban Houston, he was a standout on the football and track teams. Despite all of those options, Noons always knew that his future was in combat sports.
Should he emerge victorious in his fight with fellow power striker Jorge Masvidal at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum in Dallas this Saturday, Noons will have earned a crack at the Strikeforce lightweight championship held by superstar Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez.
“(Lightweight) is my original weight class. I was going to fight Gilbert Melendez last year, but they offered me the chance to take on Nick Diaz at 170, so it worked out perfectly,” said Noons.
After his loss to Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Diaz last October 9, Noons took time to heal from injuries, including a broken jaw, and to reassess his training methods. He describes his goal as to “become an all-around better fighter” and, in an effort to do so, has been laboring to improve his takedowns and takedown defense as well as his jiu-jitsu skills and kicks, to complement his impressive punching prowess.
Some fight fans have questioned whether Masvidal deserves a shot at Strikeforce’s top contender spot. Although he pulled out a decision win against Billy Evangelista in March, Masvidal has alternated wins and losses in his last four fights, whereas Noons was riding a six-fight win streak going into the Diaz fight.
“Billy was undefeated going into that fight and he had been for a while, then Jorge came in and beat him. I guess that makes him the new guy to fight for the number one contender spot.”
Although his strength clearly lies in his hands, Noons said that he has no preference between a striking match and a ground fight with Masvidal.
“I’m pretty comfortable wherever the fight goes. I’ll be ready for whatever he throws at me and for wherever the fight’s gonna go, whether it be on the ground or on the feet,” he said.
Although a number one contender match would typically receive top billing on most fight cards, the Noons-Masvidal match was only recently elevated to the Showtime televised main card after female superstar Gina Carano pulled out of her highly-anticipated comeback fight. In spite of the lack of promotion for his matchup, Noons isn’t concerned.
“That’s not really up to me. The (Showtime) card was already made before I was even offered the fight. I wasn’t even disappointed that it wasn’t on the main card at first, but it got bumped up, so I’m happy with how it worked out.”
Although he now trains in southern California, Noons still has deep roots in Texas. His last victory was against Jorge Gurgel on the Strikeforce: Houston card last summer and he hopes to repeat his Lone Star State success. “Texas is always a great place to fight,” he said, “I’m really excited to be fighting in Texas again.”
Noons also believes that he and Diaz will clash again. “I won one (in 2007). He won the rematch by decision. We’ll probably get a rubber match down the line.”