In this second half of BJPenn.com Radio’s interview with new UFC lightweight, KJ Noons, the Hawaiian-born fighter broke down his accidental introduction to MMA, his approach to stand-up battles and KO finishes, and he gives his prediction for Saturday’s championship fight between Nick Diaz and Georges St. Pierre.
Even before mixed martial arts, KJ Noons was no stranger to the world of combat sports. “I’ve had something like 14 pro boxing fights and I think 15 pro Muay Thai kickboxing fights. I won my first pro-amateur intercontinental world title in Muay Thai when I was 17 [years old]. I’ve been doing Muay Thai for a long time.”
It was this background that led to Noons earning the title of “best striker” at a Pride Fighting Championship audition in 2005. Of course, it wasn’t exactly Noons’ plan at the time. “I went- by accident- I went to visit some friends in LA and I just entered for fun, and I won best striker. Then all of a sudden I was signed with Pride, and I didn’t even know what Pride was!” The rest, as they say, was history. “It was cool, I got to learn under Matt Hume. They flew me out to Seattle, I lived up there. I learned thw whole MMA game. My first training partner ever was [Hayato] Sakurai, I lived with him and we trained for months. I had fun with the game, I had a few fights under the Pride banner… It went full circle, and here I am nine years later in the UFC, so yeah it was a cool experience.”
With such an impressive background, and professional boxing matches as recent as 2009, Noons holds a unique perspective on the boxing in MMA question. The two sports are often compared, with boxers insisting that MMA is street fighting, and MMA fighters arguing that boxing is one-dimensional. For Noons, however, both sports are great in their own right. “I enjoy both sports,” he said, “I love both. Either one would be great. I’ll take either one.” Of course, one major difference between the two sports is money. With boxing offering the most lucrative pay days in sports, the draw may be large, but Noons remarked, “The good thing about MMA also, is that you can fight on the undercard, or not be the main event, and make a decent living and be able to pay your bills and be able to train all year long. Whereas boxing, if you’re not the main event- even if you are the main event or even the champ- until you start getting that pay-per-view hits as a champion boxer, it’s just tougher to make a living.”
While it is quite common for boxing coaches to criticize the stand-up of mixed martial artists, most recently Freddy Roach’s comments toward Mauricio Shogun Rua, Noons is quick to distinguish the two sports.
“You know, it’s not boxing though, it’s MMA. There are a lot of things that you can get the basics of, you know like boxing, the basics of boxing is to know how to throw a punch correct, but it’s not boxing. You can learn a lot of stuff from boxing. But like you said, he’s knocked out so many great, top fighters. It’s not boxing; you can learn a lot of stuff from boxing and incorporate it to your style, but what he does- and what he’s done in his career- has worked for him, and [it’s worked] great. It’s been his style, you know, with the Muay Thai, it’s the wrestling, it’s everything. You put that all together, you know, it’s also 4 oz. gloves. I mean, it’s not boxing. He’s been one of the best fighters I’ve seen in the history of MMA, like when he won Pride and his [fights in the] UFC. You can get away with a lot in MMA because there are so many different weapons, and like I said with the small gloves. I don’t know if that’s actually going to help him better, if he can maybe throw a punch better, I mean his style has worked for him great over the years.”
Noons agreed that the two sports are deeply connected, conceding, “You have to know boxing to be at least competitive or good in MMA.” Indeed, MMA has been seeing a recent increase in fighters training with some of the best boxing trainers. BJ Penn worked with Floyd Mayweather Sr., GSP and Anderson Silva have both worked with Freddie Roach, Junior Dos Santos trains with Brazilian Olympic boxers, and the list goes on. Noons believes that is simply the evolution of the sport.
“It’s probably just like how these guys searched out the best jiu jitsu guys, the best wrestlers, you got to be good at every aspect, every point of the game, so why not get the best kickboxing coach, you know, the best boxing coach. I’m guessing that’s just getting a little bit more of the spotlight now than before, but it’s just like anything else you got to be the best at everything if you want to be the best at the sport. I’m sure guys are reaching out there for the best stand-up, just like the best wrestling and the best jiu jitsu.”
As a fighter known for his preference to fight on the feet, KJ Noons boasts a pretty well-rounded MMA game. When asked if he thinks his ground game is underrated, he replied, “You can’t really rate something you haven’t seen. You know, I just like to play defense, and if I can use some type of offensive submission or something to my advantage, I’ll use it. But, you know, I like to keep the fight where I feel like I have the biggest advantage; and I feel like I have the better advantage when I fight fighters standing up, in the stand up game, so that’s why I’ve always kind of stuck with that. Plus, for me, I feel like it’s more exciting to watch fighters standing up.”
Of course, the hope for most stand-up fights is the knockout. Noons, who has 8 wins by KO/TKO, has not finished a fight since 2010. Noons says that he always looks to seize the opportunity to score a knockout, but with today’s competition you can’t always fight recklessly.
“Getting a knockout is the ultimate way to win a fight, but a lot of the times when you’re looking for the knockout, you also leave yourself open for different things. At this part of the game, when I signed up, I only want to fight the top-notch guys, the top of the food chain. So, you know, I’m not fighting any slouches. It’s tough, the top guys, so you got to work for it. You can’t always be looking for the knockout; you can get caught if you’re doing that.”
Against Donald Cerrone, of course, Noons will be looking to utilize a part of his arsenal that has been lacking in recent fights. “I’ve just had a lot of injuries, you know, a broken foot and some bad injuries where I haven’t been able to kick lately. I would consider myself a pretty decent kicker, you know, having a good background.” With the two fighters in top shape for their May 25 bout, we can expect fireworks.
Before ending the interview, Noons gave his prediction for the upcoming fight between UFC Welterweight Champ, Georges St. Pierre, and one of the last men to defeat Noons, Nick Diaz.
“I think he has what it takes to win, but I think GSP is just too dominant on the ground. He’s just bigger, stronger; he’s just going to dominate him on the ground. It’s going to be so hard for him to get up or really do anything, even if you have good jiu jitsu. A guy that’s that dominant, it’s going to be a tough one. I’m going to have to say GSP is going to take that one, even though we all want to see Nick talk a bunch of **** and beat up GSP, you know it’d be fun, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
If you missed part 1 of this interview, click here to read KJ Noons talk about joining the UFC and his upcoming debut against Donald Cerrone.Tags: BJPenn.Com Radio, BJPennDotCom Radio, Dana White, Donald Cerrone, floyd mayweather, freddy roach, georges st. pierre, gsp, Junior Dos Santos, kj noons, Mauricio Rua, mma, MMA NEWS, Nick Diaz, pride fighting championship, Shogun Rua, Strikeforce, ufc, ufc news