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Strikeforce’s K.J. Noons returns this weekend with Nick Diaz still on his mind

Noons faces Jorge Masvidal in Dallas for status as No. 1 Strikeforce lightweight contender

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K.J. Noons, left, and Nick Diaz exchange blows in a October 2010 Strikeforce welterweight title fight. Diaz won a unanimous decision and avenged an earlier loss to Noons.

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UFC 131 Wrap-Up

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ryan Greene talk about UFC 131 on their weekly radio show, which airs weekly on Mondays at 5:30 on 91.5 KUNV. Junior dos Santos, Kenny Florian and five-round main event fights are topics of conversation before they switch to a little NBA Finals talk to round off the episode.

Strikeforce lightweight K.J. Noons believes he can break everyone in professional mixed martial arts into two categories.

“There are people in this game who are athletes and there are people in this game who are true fighters,” Noons said while in Las Vegas earlier this month.

As for which group Noons fits into, he’ll let someone else answer that. Take the story of how Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker first met Noons 12 years ago as clarification.

Coker recalls a confident 16-year-old showing up at a kickboxing event he was promoting in San Jose, Calif., with a parent’s permission slip. Not feeling confident about allowing his participation, Coker called Noons’ father.

When Coker heard the elder Noons say he wanted his son to fight, he remembers thinking, ‘come on.’

“We let him fight and he caught a guy,” Coker said. “He knocked him out cold and I’m like, ‘Oh, this guy has talent.’”

Strikingly little has changed for the 28-year-old Noons. He’s still competing under Coker and has the same fighter’s mentality.

That’s why Noons said it had been a rough eight months in between bouts. It’s longer than he likes to wait, but injuries suffered in a unanimous decision loss to Nick Diaz last October made Noons take time off.

He’s back in action this weekend as Noons (10-3) fights Jorge Masvidal (21-6) on the Strikeforce: Dallas televised card, which airs via tape delay on the west coast on Showtime at 9 p.m. Saturday, in a bout to determine the top 155-pound contender.

Jorge Masvidal street fight

Noons said he would classify Masvidal as a guy who was a “true fighter.” Masvidal is known for being a part of a street-fighting ring in South Florida popularized by Kimbo Slice’s YouTube videos.

Many fans mock Masvidal for his past, but Noons has a different view.

“I looked at it as this guy came from street-fighting, made himself better, got himself in a world-class promotion and is fighting for the No. 1 contender,” Noons said. “I give this guy a lot of respect. He came a long way.”

That doesn’t mean Masvidal has Noons’ undivided attention. Noons is more interested with fights against Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and eventually rival Nick Diaz, who faces Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137, that could be in front of him.

“Of course I’m looking past him,” Noons said. “I want to be the champ. Who’s after him? Gilbert. Who’s after Gilbert? UFC belt. How come I’m not the champ right now? I should be fighting GSP.”

After revisiting the fight, Noons isn’t so convinced he lost his Strikeforce welterweight title bout against Diaz. Even if Noons wanted to mark the loss as controversial, Diaz could say the same thing about their first meeting.

Noons defeated him in 2007 in the now-defunct Elite XC when doctors stopped the fight after one round because of cuts on Diaz’s face. Noons believes there’s still plenty to settle between the two.

“It’s 1-1 — rubber match,” Noons said. “After he beats GSP and I win my title, maybe we’ll do something after that.”

Noons’ natural weight class is 155 pounds, but he’s willing to move up to 170 if a fight against Diaz or another marquee opponent is available.

For what it’s worth, Noons said he thought Diaz would beat St. Pierre as long as he improved his takedown defense. Noons will also be rooting for his longtime foe in the fight because he wants the stakes to be as high as possible for their purely hypothetical matchup.

“I fought him at his hometown on his turf at his weight class and you all know the outcome,” Noons said. “You can’t leave it to the judges.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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