First, the lack of communication from Noons just doesn’t sound like him. From a journalistic standpoint, my experience in covering Noons has always been extremely positive. In fact, he’s been one of the best fighters I have dealt with, which says a lot, because few fighters in this industry are tough to work with. But in the past, Noons has always been accessible, responsive, candid, and polite. For there to be a media silence at a time like this is just dumbfounding. That’s not to say that Noons’ camp hasn’t been responsive to the media in this instance, they just aren’t going on the record right now.
I didn’t want to write this opinion piece without getting Noons’ side because I know for a fact that there is more to the story. Unfortunately, they aren’t ready to speak out right now. The problem is, EliteXC is getting its side of the story out and it is not favorable to Noons’ image. In fact, Noons is being portrayed as someone who is ducking Diaz.
I don’t for a second believe Noons is ducking Diaz but I can’t blame those who are reading the situation as such. And if that perception is correct, it only adds to my confusion. I saw the first fight between the two last November and the Diaz camp can spin the fight however they want, but Noons dominated him. It wasn’t even close. The fight didn’t end because of a cut — it ended because of three cuts! A fighter never likes to have someone else decide their fate, but the doctor in question should have lost his license to practice medicine had he not stopped the fight.
If there was a rematch, I see a similar outcome. Noons has worked hard to become a complete fighter but his skills on the ground are very unproven. In talking to those who have trained with him, his ground game has been described as solid but far from spectacular. But his ground game has yet to come into question because Noons has developed a solid sprawl that has allowed him to keep his fights standing. And when it comes to his standup, he has Gomi-like skills on his feet. I’m sure some people will dispute that last statement but the facts are that Noons is extremely underrated and is one of the heaviest hitters around at lightweight.
Diaz is a good combination puncher but Noons is a good combination puncher with power. His body shots really hurt Diaz in their first meeting and Noons’ hand speed and foot work allowed him to counter Diaz’s reach advantage to a point where Diaz took too much damage to be allowed to continue. If Diaz can’t get Noons off his feet, he can’t win. From a tactical perspective, Noons has no reason not to take the rematch against Diaz. If you disagree with that statement then you need to wake up and watch their first fight over again.
Noons has had a lot of trouble living down his devastating knockout loss against Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett during EliteXC’s first-ever show in February of 2007. He was promoted heavily at the time by Gary Shaw and SHOWTIME and resentment from hardcore fans was created when he failed to deliver. But since that time he’s been dominant in wins over Diaz, Edson Berto, and Yves Edwards. While Noons may not be a top-ten lightweight, he has the talent to one day earn such a designation within one of the sport’s deepest divisions.
In addition to the loss to Bennet, I think a lot of resentment exists because of his looks and his demeanor. He’s a nice guy who doesn’t have a particularly rugged look. I think to judge him based on such trivial nonsense is ridiculous and I don’t for a second believe that Noons is scared of anyone. This is a guy who has trained in martial arts since he was a child and has fought tough opponents since turning to MMA. As a professional boxer, he’s 8-1. Noons is a true competitor and has a fighter’s heart. In fact, fighting is in his blood, as his father was a competitive kickboxer. However, action speaks louder than words and the decision by Noons’ camp not to address the situation publicly or even privately, speaks volumes.
Noons is squandering a tremendous opportunity. If this is a money play, then his camp is employing an ill-advised strategy. It’s hard for an employer to meet your demands if you’re not clearly laying those demands out for them. It’s also hard to increase your market value as a fighter if the UFC is not interested in you. A lot of people were surprised when they found out that EliteXC is paying Antonio Silva $200,000 per fight but that was the price that had to be paid in order to retain him. Silva re-signed with EliteXC soon after Joe Silva issued favorable comments regarding “Big Foot” during a public Q&A prior to the UFC’s event in the UK this past January. Once it was established that the UFC was a realistic option for Silva, EliteXC had to pay a premium to keep him.
I believe Noons is good enough to compete in the UFC at 155 lbs. but the UFC has a lot of depth at lightweight and the promotion would be unlikely to offer him a great deal of money if he were to suddenly become available. It’s hard to negotiate with the UFC if you don’t have leverage. That’s a statement that can apply to any situation, but it especially applies to the UFC. In many cases, their offers are issued in a take it or leave it manner. The fighters who have been able to come in with good deals were the ones who had multiple options.
Noons’ options would increase if he successfully defended his title against Diaz on national television. If he fights on SHOWTIME, anywhere between 150,000-350,000 people will see him fight. On CBS, that number could be anywhere between 2 million to 6 million people. Such exposure can only help his market value and if Noons wants to command more money, he needs to go on CBS and create more leverage for himself.
Rarely do I side with a company when it comes to a dispute with a fighter because I believe fighters make incredible sacrifices and only have so much time to make money. Fighters don’t get medical insurance and they don’t have a 401K. Their shelf-like is limited so they need to earn as much as they can while they can. However, EliteXC has invested a lot of promotional money and time behind Noons. And Noons vs. Diaz II is a feud that has gotten a lot of people excited. It’s a depserate time for EliteXC and they need the fight to happen on Oct. 4 when they go head-to-head against college football on ABC and the Major League Baseball playoffs on FOX. Unless something major happens soon regarding EliteXC’s financial fortunes, Oct. 4 could be Noons’ last chance to fight on primetime network television.
I consider the real number one contender to the EliteXC lightweight title to be Eddie Alvarez. Perhaps Noons’ camp feels the same way. The thing is, EliteXC has named Diaz its number one contender. Fighters and fans do not get a say when it comes to promotional rankings. As a champion, Noons needs to answer the call and defend his title against the number one contender as determined by the promotion. If he refuses to defend his title then EliteXC needs to give some serious consideration towards stripping him of the title and having Diaz fight another opponent for the vacant belt. If Noons doesn’t want to take the Diaz fight, maybe Alvarez will. Alvarez is getting married this month and wants to take time off. However, if there was a title on the line and it was worth his while to come back sooner than expected, perhaps he’d be willing to change his plans?