Noons: ‘I Always Wanted Diaz’

By Loretta Hunt Aug 29, 2008
Ultimatums have been a regular occurrence during K.J. Noons (Pictures)’ tenure with EliteXC, says the 160-pound champion.

At least one of those demands found its way into the public forum last week, when an EliteXC employee reported to the media that Noons had been given a 24-hour deadline to accept a rematch with Nick Diaz (Pictures) for an Oct. 4 live broadcast on CBS.

Noons and his manager, Mark Dion, had been negotiating a new pay scale for the bout for over a month, and talks had reached a stalemate. But now the 25-year-old fighter’s courage and heart were suddenly thrust into question.

With the deadline come and gone, Noons will not be defending his title against Diaz on Oct. 4. From the look of things, Noons isn’t quite sure he’ll be fighting for the promotion ever again -- but he does knows that at no point did he ever not want the fight out of fear.

“I always wanted to fight Nick Diaz (Pictures),” says Noons. “It’s the most marketable fight for me, the best style fight for me. I think the fans want to see it. But you have to pay for something you want to see.”

Noons is not afraid to admit that his compensation was at the root of the breakdown between his reps and Pro Elite, the struggling parent company of EliteXC, ShoXC and a handful of other promotions scattered throughout the world.

“It is about the money and how they were paying somebody I already beat three times more,” says Noons.

The San Diego resident says he’s made approximately $83,000 in two years and four fights. Diaz received $60,000 for his third-round bashing of Thomas Denny (Pictures) on July 26 in Stockton, Calif.

A lot has changed since Noons joined the Pro Elite stable in early 2007.

Eighteen months ago, Noons (7-2) was a hot prospect for the debuting promotion, touted by former EliteXC Live Events President Gary Shaw as a double threat. Noons says Shaw, already an established boxing promoter, signed the son of accomplished kickboxer Karls Noons to separate contracts in both combat sports. But good will quickly began to unravel following Noons’ inaugural run in the EliteXC cage against Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett in February 2007.

“I think the relationship kind of went sour when I fought ‘Krazy Horse’ and I lost,” says Noons. “After I lost, I know I was put on the black list. It became all about ‘Krazy Horse,’ which is fine because he won, but it was nothing on me.”

Noons -- who was surprisingly knocked out in the first round -- requested a rematch with the gold-toothed Bennett but said the promotion turned him down. Instead, the Hawaii native was steered toward the main event of the first ShoXC “Elite Challenger Series,” a sub-promotion that would spotlight up-and-coming talent.

Noons felt a sense of demotion in more ways than one.

“I wasn’t going to get paid what was on my contract. They were like ‘Hey, we’re gonna lower your pay, put you in the main event, and you really need this fight, but we’re not going to budge –- you’re gonna take it or leave it’ type deal,” he said. “There was an ultimatum: ‘Either you fight, you take this or we’re not going to even fight you.’”

Noons’ opponent, Edson Berto, was another protégé from esteemed combat sports lineage. Berto’s father, Dieusuel, fought at UFC 10, while brother Andre represented Haiti in the 2004 Summer Olympics. With Shaw a family friend and dual promoter, Noons believes ulterior motives were afoot in the matchmaking process.

“Why would you put your friend’s son on a main event against someone that you didn’t think you could build him up against?” asks Noons.

Despite stopping Berto in the third round with a blunt knee, Noons’ doubt in Pro Elite led him and his manager Dion to request a non-title fight against Diaz for their November 2007 encounter in the hopes of hitting the free market afterward.

On the third and final bout of his contract, Noons says EliteXC was eager to re-sign him beforehand, but only if he’d fight Diaz for a newly created 160-pound title. However, the pay scale offered for the inevitable champion was too low, particularly with fight bonuses.

“They gave me options to buy stock, which I would be in the hole with now if I bought them,” says Noons. “It came down to an ultimatum again. It was either ‘take this fight or nothing.’”

Noons signed a new agreement in May, but a clause was added that forbid the promotion from speaking directly with the fighter regarding negotiations.

Noons impressively defended his title in front of his hometown Honolulu crowd last June with a 48-second knockout of the more seasoned Yves Edwards (Pictures) (34-14-1), though he says the treatment he’s received as EliteXC’s champion –- from being denied extra event tickets for relatives to getting passed over for marketing opportunities -- has been less than encouraging.

In July, Pro Elite presented Noons’ manager Dion with the Diaz rematch, after an in-cage tussle at the Hawaii event between the two fighters sent interest in the bout skyrocketing. Noons and Dion already decided that now was the time to make a stand.

“It’s been such a grind and I don’t know why. I wanted the Diaz fight, but it was about little things in the contract at the time,” says Noons. “It was about a few things I wanted taken out of the contract that broke the deal and couldn’t make the Diaz fight happen.”

Noons didn’t specify what details he wanted extracted from his contract, though his disdain for elements within the agreement are obvious.

“It’s like if you don’t take the fight, they can extend your contract by their own discretion,” he says. “They can keep on extending your contract. There’s a championship clause, where you can’t get out unless you lose.”

Though he hasn’t spoken with Pro Elite executives directly, Noons has often stood next to his manager Dion and listened in on phone calls with the organization. In recent weeks, he says the calls have included threats of litigation.

Noons says he still has at least one to two fights remaining on his existing contract, though recent public filings revealed that Pro Elite is more than $55 million in debt. Meanwhile, Shaw -- who was downsized to the role of consultant for EliteXC in June -- has yet to deliver on three of the four boxing matches he promised Noons in his contract, says the fighter.

What course this impasse takes in the next few weeks or months is not certain. Jeremy Lappen, EliteXC’s Head of Fight Operations, said last week the promotion was undecided on the promotion’s next course of action with its wayward champion.

Noons seems to have already made up his mind though.

“I can guarantee you that for MMA, I won’t be sitting on the sidelines,” he says. “I want to continue with my dream of pursuing two sports.

“I’m not Tito Ortiz (Pictures). I’m not Randy Couture (Pictures). I’m not a Fedor or B.J. Penn (Pictures). I’m not one of those guys that has a big name in all these fights. I’m not asking for this type of money. I’m just asking for what’s fair.”
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