doesn't have to search very hard for an answer when you ask whether he regards his win over Nick Diaz
as a true victory.
"Of course," he snorts, as if he's never even considered any other way of looking at it.
As if Diaz hasn't been making the opposing case ever since they first met with the EliteXC lightweight title on the line almost three years ago, when a doctor stoppage due to cuts after round one sent Diaz into a rage as Noons celebrated in the cage.
"That's his opinion," Noons says, shrugging off Diaz's complaints. "And his opinion on how I celebrated the win, it had nothing to do with him. I didn't give a sh-t about him. It had to do with being a martial artist and coming from a family where I've been at it for 20 years, and then winning a world title. That's a huge accomplishment."
Saying that Noons and Diaz have a history together is sort of like saying that the Yankees and Red Sox have had some spirited competitions over the years. These two are well-acquainted, even if they only spent five minutes in the cage together. The contentious relationship went well past that one night in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is part of why they find themselves ready to go at it again in Strikeforce's main event on Saturday night. Grudges sell fights, and this is a grudge that's been unresolved for years.
It's not that they hate each other, though. Noons is quick to point that out.
"I don't hate anybody," he says.
It's just that they have certain inherent personality conflicts, and in a sport where you have to climb into the cage alone with another man, those can't help but rise to the surface before, during, and after the contest.
Take, for instance, the fracas in the cage following Noons' victory over Yves Edwards in 2008. When Diaz confronted him afterward and uttered the now famous line, "Don't be scared, homie," it prompted a near brawl that saw both fighters' families get involved. It didn't stop there, either.
"That's why I don't like him," Noons says. "There were a few other incidents after that, that weren't on TV or anything, where the cops had to come and break it up. There were a few times like that. I mean, as a person, he says stuff like he doesn't think I won. But I gave the guy plastic surgery on his face. He's delusional."There were a few other incidents after that, that weren't on TV or anything, where the cops had to come and break it up. There were a few times like that. I mean, as a person, he says stuff like he doesn't think I won. But I gave the guy plastic surgery on his face. He's delusional.
-- Noons on Diaz
Then there are more basic disagreements about how a professional fighter should conduct himself, which came to light when Diaz no-showed the pre-fight media call
, leaving Noons to shoulder the hype load on his own. The way Noons sees it, interviews and media responsibilities are part of the job, and part of how you get paid. The fact that Diaz doesn't think the rules apply to him is just another sign of his character, Noons says.
"He's like that guy who never shows up for work, but shows up the day you're going to cut him a check," Noons quips. "That's just what he does."
But while Noons and Diaz may not be going out for post-fight smoothies together regardless of how things turn out in the rematch, Noons is willing to give Diaz credit for what he's accomplished as a fighter. He acknowledges that the first win over Diaz was the biggest of his career, and when they square off for the Strikeforce welterweight title it will probably be Noons' most significant MMA bout to date.
"To me, it's a good match between two good fighters who have both gone undefeated since their last fight. It's just a good fight on paper without all that other stuff," Noons says. "I'm not making any excuses. I'm coming up and fighting at his weight, in his hometown, and I'm going to win it."
And while Diaz might claim he had a host of issues keeping him from performing the first time around
, Noons isn't buying it. The recent staph infection before the bout, the surgery Diaz had to repair a cut-prone face after the bout – none of that matters to Noons. Regardless of the situational differences this time, he says, he's still just the better fighter.
"I was headed toward the TKO win last time anyway. It doesn't matter if he had surgery to fix his face. It's going to come down to skill. That's what's going to win."
Maybe the question we should be asking is, even if Noons' skill does rule the day again, will that be the end of this rivalry? Would a more conclusive finish really convince Diaz to let bygones be bygones, or does beating Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce title just guarantee that you'll have to keep seeing him over and over again as he tries to angle for one more fight, perhaps through less than subtle means?
Noons doesn't know and doesn't care, he says. Silencing Diaz might well prove to be impossible, but it's not what's driving him in this fight anyway.
"I'm going to gain a 170 [pound] title," he says. "I'm going to be a two-time world champion. That's enough motivation for me."