Karl James Noons is looking towards greener pastures, which may or may not include his return to the EliteXC cage, he says.
“I’m a free agent,” Noons told Sherdog.com Monday, the result of EliteXC taking back his championship belt.
Noons, 25, was stripped of his EliteXC 160-pound title on Sept. 19 after the promotion said he refused to defend his title against Nick Diaz.
Noons bested the mouthy Stockton, Calif. native with a first-round TKO on cuts in November 2007. Words between the fighters and their families ensued in the cage, and a rematch loomed.
EliteXC attempted to promote said rematch on three separate cards since July. But Noons took umbrage with Diaz’s pay scale, which was nearly three times more than his.
Private discussions spilled into the public forum when an EliteXC rep announced Noons had been given a 24-hour deadline to accept the bout.
Though Noons was subsequently removed from EliteXC’s champions mantle, he said a piece is missing from the timeline.
“We weren’t coming to agreements on the fight, so I gave them written notice that I’d give them the belt back five days prior before they stripped me,” he said, in the hopes of “working something out.” “I didn’t make it public, and I guess to prove a point, or maybe out of ego or whatever they want, they stripped me.”
Noons said his contract, of which two fights remain, only pertains to his reign as a titleholder.
"Since I’ve been stripped, I’m no longer the champion and I don’t owe them the fights," he said. "I owed them fights for being a champion.”
Jeremy Lappen, EliteXC’s Head of Fight Operations, doesn’t agree.
"KJ still has two more fights on his contract," Lappen said Monday. “I’m hoping we’ll work something out, but there’s really not much to work out. He’s still under contract with us.”
Lappen confirmed that Diaz will now face Philadelphian upstart Eddie Alvarez for the vacated title on Nov. 8 at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nev.
Noons, who offered to fight Alvarez when the Diaz negotiations broke down, was unimpressed by the news.
“Hopefully they’ll want to bring me back in the future and they can have Eddie or Nick or whoever they have in the future fight the real champ,” he said.
If Noons will be sitting cageside in Reno on Nov. 8 remains to be seen, though there has been some light at the end of the tunnel.
Noons, his manager Mark Dion, and EliteXC officials met for two days in Los Angeles two weeks ago to try and hash out the fighter’s future with the organization. Talks are ongoing, but both sides are hopeful for a resolution.
“I think the talks were very helpful,” said Lappen. “I think we have a better understanding of where each side is coming from.”
Though an immediate consensus wasn’t reached, both parties agreed that Noons could pursue a boxing match on Nov. 13 for a small Los Angeles promotion.
“We’re still on good terms,” said Noons. “We’re gonna see if we can work a deal out, but as of right now, we are on the same page as I’m going to go box right now.”
With Showtime in advanced negotiations to purchase EliteXC, the promotion’s future is looking a lot more stable than its $55 million debt currently suggests. Stars will be needed to steer vehicles on Showtime and CBS telecasts to come.
“I think KJ could be a big star,” said Lappen. "I’ve always thought that. He’s a very talented fighter. That has never been a question.”
Whether both fighter and promotion can meet somewhere in the middle remains undecided. And if not, will rival promotions like the UFC, WEC, or Affliction be in the market for his services?
Noons is optimistic.
“I’m 25 years old. I’m the defending world champ and I can do two sports,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll want to bring me back. I just hope that they’ll see the value in me, and if not, I believe somebody else will.”