“I was real upset that it ended the way it did because it wasn’t like I was hurt,” said Diaz. “Then I kind of dropped the idea of ever fighting a rematch because he got out of MMA. I never considered the first fight as a loss.”

Tonight, when Nick Diaz and K.J. Noons square off for the Strikeforce welterweight title,  it’s a classic grudge match. In the first fight between the pair three years ago, Noons won and Diaz said, hold on a minute.  Noons notched the last “official” victory over Diaz, and the bout was stopped at the end of the first round when Diaz was bloodied and his left eye was swollen to grotesque proportions. That was November 10, 2007, in Corpus Christi, Tex.

Tonight is likely to be a whole ‘nother story.

“He vacated his title,” said Diaz. “Embarrassing.”

That is a serious slap to a fighter’s pride. Nothing worse than doing something “embarrassing” in front of the assembled fancy ringside.

Since then, Diaz skipped a news teleconference and left his manager, Cesar Gracie, to make his apologies.

Noons came back with the pronouncement, calculated to enfuriate Diaz, that he “respected” Diaz as a fighter.

The real truth was revealed during an ill-timed brawl in Nashville which included as principals Diaz, his brother Nate Diaz, Noons, and Noon’s father Karl Noons Sr., a former kickboxer.

You like that for hype? How you like me now? How about some of this?

“Don’t be scared, homie,” Diaz told Noons.

Diaz dismissed Noons with a gesture of, let’s say, contempt and Noons’ father took issue with Diaz.

Both corners started throwing punches and Noons Sr. went straight for Diaz on the other side of the cage. As security attempted to do their buisness, all hell broke loose. The drinks spewed across the cage and order was never really restored.

“Nick has no class,” said Noons at the time. “He’s a bum – a piece of shit –  and he and his team disrespected my family and I with their gestures and trash talk and tried to upstage our fight.”

A couple of days later, the scene played out off camera and the pair met again in front of a hotel.

“Right away, he put his mug on me,” Diaz said. “He was staring me down and trying to give the impression that he’s hardcore. I flipped him off, but he’s standing over there and I go, ‘What the f**k are you doing?’ I’m not the one doing shit’ I couldn’t understand why this guy is putting his mug on me, but he had to act like he was some kind of tough guy in front of his girlfriend and his dad.”

Nothing like a guy from Stockton respects like a pointless display of macho. Nick Diaz is a realist.

It comes down to tonight, and neither man has an edge in the war of words or confrontation.

Noons is 9-1 in MMA, 13-1 as a kickboxer and 11-2 and a pro boxer. He owes this title shot due to the past history,  and he has the pure guts to move up to welterweight to redress the slights he and his father suffered at the hands of a boor.

Diaz, a 5-to-2 or better favorite depending on which tout you believe, looked tough as nails over the course of the past three years.

How you like this fight now?

Maybe 8,000 fans will see this fight live, and they’re the luckiest fans in the sport…