KJ Noons has been here for years.
"King Karl" wants the MMA world to know that he never left the sport, he just took some time off to beat people up inside of a ring as opposed to a cage. After compiling a 4-1 boxing record over the last couple years and with a win over Andre Amade in his first mixed martial arts fight in 21 months at DREAM.13, it's hard to argue with him.
Though the contest under the Strikeforce banner he really wanted, a rematch with Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett, fell through at the last minute, Noons is ready to fight whoever, wherever, and have fun doing it.
In anticipation of his Strikeforce: "Los Angeles" bout with Conor Heun, the former EliteXC Lightweight Champion took some time to talk with MMAmania.com about having to deal with a late opponent change, his commitment to MMA, and of course, Nick Diaz.
Check it out:
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Talk to me about what it was like for those couple days where Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett pulled out of the fight, the search for a replacement opponent was on, and the date for your fight was even in question. That must have been a hectic 48 hours.
KJ Noons: I didn't know what happened with "Krazy Horse." And yeah, my fight was moved from the 16th to the 26th and then back to the 16th. Conor was on the undercard of the June 16th show so they moved him up to fight me. I don't even know all the details of the situation and how it was resolved.
KJ Noons: I didn't even know he had another fight. I mean, usually when you fight, regardless of the outcome, you can't fight again for a while, and doctors won't even allow you to. I have no idea why he would do that. The fight against me would have been viewed by way more people and he would have been paid a lot more to fight on a main card of a Strikeforce event than some little local show. It would have been an exciting match up. I'm disappointed like everyone else.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): That leads me to my next question. How disappointed are you that you won't be able to avenge your previous loss to Bennett? Having an opponent change just days before a fight is not an ideal situation. Has it bothered your training and mental preparation for the fight?
KJ Noons: No, I'll fight whoever they put in front of me. "Krazy Horse" is my only loss, so I'm upset I won't get another shot at him. It would have been fun. He's an explosive fighter and he's crazy, literally. But I don't train to fight one specific person. I just worry about being the best I can be regardless of the opponent.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): What do you know about Conor Heun? He's unknown to most fight fans. Have you seen much tape of his previous fights?
KJ Noons: I saw his last fight with Jorge Gurgel. He comes in shape. He's big. He's a dangerous opponent. He's hungry. He's a good all-around fighter. I think it'll be a much tougher fight than most people think it will be. This is his shot. This is his opportunity to make a name for himself. Any fighter in that situation is dangerous.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Let's get to your transition from MMA to boxing and now back to MMA. You had two-year-long layoff from the cage. You just won your first fight back a couple months ago. How did you feel in the fight?
KJ Noons: I never left baby! I never left. [Laughs]. I mean, I always stay in shape and stay active, so it wasn't that big of a transition. It's just like riding a bicycle, man. It's fun for me.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): [Laughs] Ok. With that being said, are you completely focused on your MMA career, or is boxing something that you would still like to pursue?
KJ Noons: I'm 100% committed to MMA right now, but I'm not giving up on boxing. I want to show Strikeforce that I'm committed to wining another title. But I wouldn't say boxing is totally out of the picture.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Typically in the past, you've never really trained with one camp or team. You usually just hop around from gym to gym. Is that still the case?
KJ Noons: It's Team Noons, man. I just like to jump from gym to gym. I used to be a part owner of a gym and promote a gym, so I know how it works. I don't feel like having my name associated with just one gym and having people make money off my name, you know? I just go to wherever the best fighters are. If the best fighters were at Team ABC, I would go there. I just want to train with the best. There are so many great athletes in the Southern California area to train with. I just want to get better.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Alright, you have to know that now that your back in MMA, fans are going to be interested in a fight between yourself and Nick Diaz. The rematch fell through a couple years ago for various reasons, which ultimately led to you moving to boxing. Is that a fight you would like to make happen even though he's moved up to welterweight now?
KJ Noons: Yeah, it's definitely something that Strikeforce wants do and wants to make happen, so we'll see where it goes. Nick has always been a great fighter, and he's on a tear now. So yeah, it's a fight that's in my mind. It'll happen in the future.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): I want to give the chance to talk about the EliteXC situation that I've referred to here. Is there anything that you want to tell fans about your side of the story, or would you just rather leave it in the past?
KJ Noons: I'll just leave it alone. The past is the past. No need to rehash it.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Alight, fair enough. Considering your long layoff from the game, do feel as though your ready to jump back into competing with top-level guys right away, assuming you get by Heun? Or, do you think you need a couple more fights to iron out the wrinkles in your game so to speak?
KJ Noons: Yeah, absolutely. I'm ready. I'm ready to fight whoever Strikeforce wants me to fight, be it the best guys or whatever. I'm ready. I want to fight as much as I can and just stay active. I want to get back into the MMA scene. I'm still the champ in my eyes. I'm looking to add more belts to the collection.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Let's come full circle here. Like you said, you don't know much about Conor Heun. Do you have any particular strategy or prediction for the match up?
KJ Noons: I think it's gonna be a great fight. My hand is gonna be raised in the end. People should definitely tune in. I train my butt off for this stuff. When people watch KJ Noons fight, regardless of the opponent, they're gonna watch a great fight. That's what I do. I'm a fighter. I'm an entertainer. Win, lose or draw, it's gonna be a good show.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Thanks for your time KJ and good luck on June 16th. Do you have any sponsors or a website you'd like to plug?
KJ Noons: Yeah, fans can check out www.kjnoons.com. Thank you for the interview and thanks to all the fans for their support. Tune in on the 16th, it's gonna be fun.