Nick Diaz file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
The teleconference promoting the rematch between welterweight titleholder Nick Diaz and Karl James Noons at Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Noons 2” on Oct. 9 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., was supposed to feature both challenger and champion.
Instead, only half of the main event showed up.
For the majority of the call, media could only ask questions of Noons, as the champion was not interested in calling in. Eventually, Strikeforce officials contacted Diaz’s manager and trainer, Cesar Gracie, who spoke on behalf of the 170-pound champion.
“Nick doesn’t do conferences calls. It’s not in his psyche. He’s too busy training to be on the phone,” said Gracie. “He just doesn’t operate in that mindset of, ‘This is a sport, and we’re going to talk about it.’ It gets to the point where you’re making up some kind of rivalry, and it’s a fake thing. With Nick, it’s not a fake thing.”
Noons was initially miffed at the champion for not showing but later expressed some humorous discontent that was not as serious.
“That’s pretty unprofessional,” said the former EliteXC 160-pound champion. “I respect Nick as a fighter, but I can’t stand the guy, personally. From different people, I’ve heard he’s a really nice guy, but when he pulls s--t like this and doesn’t show up on a conference call, it’s hard to like a guy like that.”
The upcoming fight between Diaz and Noons will be a rematch of their 2007 encounter in which Noons defeated Diaz to become the first-ever EliteXC 160-pound champion. The fight ended in controversy, however, as the ring doctor ignored Diaz’s protests and would not allow him to come out for the second round after he sustained a cut over his eyelid in round one.
Despite the Noons loss being the last on his resume, Diaz has not obsessing over avenging it, according to Gracie.
“It hasn’t bothered him over the years,” he said. “He’s been busy fighting, and he has bad blood for everybody who steps in cage with him. That’s how the Diaz brothers are. Their mindset is that they’re going into battle, and you wouldn’t fight a friend. That’s what makes Nick exciting. Obviously, he’s motivated [to avenge the loss], but he’s not lying in bed every night thinking about it.”
Gracie believes the rematch taking place at 170 pounds instead of 160 will favor the champion, and he thinks that cutting down to 160 was detrimental to Diaz’s performance. Gracie would not reveal details of how Diaz’s strategy would change for the rematch, but he did divulge that he was training his boxing with WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Diaz is coming off dominating performances against accomplished strikers Marius Zaromskis and Scott Smith, both of whom outweigh Noons. Diaz’s boxing was a topic of interest during the call, and Noons fielded several questions about his opponent’s striking style.
“It’s unique, with an uppercase [‘U’]. Nick has killed some legends, but they don’t have the [boxing] pedigree that I do. I’m a different fighter than Scott Smith. I’d have to be stupid to think that he’s not going to take me down, him being a Gracie guy,” said Noons.
While most award Diaz the advantage on the ground, Noons, who belongs to no specific fight team, has worked on his ground game at camps all over the country.
“Let’s put it this way: I’m probably the best white belt in jiu-jitsu on the planet,” joked the challenger. “I do everything. I like to mix it up. I’ve trained in San Diego at The Arena and at the Houston Paradigm and Throwdown [training centers]. I’m going into their territory, their turf, and I like competition. I want them to push me, to try to beat me so I can be better. If somebody’s not beating me up on ground, I’m not getting better.”
In their first contest, Noons claims he had to totally change his strategy after the fight began.
“[In the first fight], I trained to come forward and make him fight backwards. He never fights backwards, and he probably can’t even fight backwards. I’m not dissing him. It’s just that his defense is his offense,” said Noons. “He was going for the shot, so I couldn’t come forward, because I didn’t want to get taken down. I think I adjusted well. I can change my style during a fight, and I think that’s what makes good fighters.”
One of the keys to Noons’ victory in the first contest was his counter straight right hand, a punch that the southpaw Diaz has been training specifically to avoid.
“A southpaw [is susceptible] to getting hit with right hand,” said Gracie. “The good thing about Nick is he can box either way. He likes to fight southpaw, but he’s actually right handed and can switch anytime he wants.”
Since losing to Noons, the oft-lacerated Diaz has undergone surgery, shaving down his brow in hopes of preventing future cuts. He will carry a seven-fight winning streak into the rematch. Noons has rattled off six straight victories of his own. Though Noons and Gracie obviously disagree on how the fight will shake out, they do share one belief -- it should be exciting.