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Noons vs. Edwards: Fighters that MMA can be proud of

When EliteXC: Return of the King goes off on June 14, 2008 at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii fans can rest assured that the EliteXC Lightweight Championship will pit two worthy adversaries against one another. Two guys, in fact, that almost a decade ago trained together.

Two guys that still seem to be friends.

Which brings us to one of the main things that makes the sport of mixed martial arts unique?the fact that two guys can enter a cage and pound on each other but in the same breath act with and verbalize respect to one another both before and after their fight.

"I'm really excited to be back home in front of my family and my friends and to be fighting a fighter of such high caliber?Yves Edwards?who has so much talent and who has been in this game for so long," said K.J. Noons on a conference call with his soon-to-be adversary on the other line listening.

What's interesting is that the word 'respect' may actually be too weak here. MMA is a sport where two people pitted against one another can actually even be friends. We've seen it on episodes of TUF. Heck, Tim Sylvia and Fedor Emelianenko not only appeared on the same episode of Inside MMA recently to hype their battle at an Affliction event in July; Sylvia actually indicated that he would love to take Fedor hunting with him. . . After the fight, anyway. What's more, he's taken Randy Couture, a man that took his title from him, on similar excursions. Speaking of fighter friendships, what does this sound like?

"I still got a lot of respect for K.J," said Yves Edwards when offering up his feelings on the upcoming EliteXC Lightweight Championship bout. "This is the one fight I want him to lose; everything else, I want him to do well. I like the kid a lot."

Don't remember this kind of talk happening between Mike Tyson and "Razor" Ruddock? That's because it didn't. In fact, when asked about how important it was for fighters to show one another respect as MMA goes mainstream?perhaps, making it different than some of the other combat sports out there?Noons answered in the following manner:

"I think it's very important that we show a lot of respect to each other, kind of like a fighter camaraderie."

Furthering this interesting relationship is that both fighters respect one another enough to avoid bravado when discussing the specifics of how their particular skills match up.

"K.J.'s takedown defense has looked good in the past against (Edson) Berto and against Nick (Diaz). He hasn't had to show what he has on the ground. How important is it for me to get the fight on the ground? I honestly don't know yet. KJ's stand up is good; I also feel my stand up is good. There may come a time that I decide that stand up is not where I want to play the game. But that might not happen. This is an MMA fight."

Speaking of an MMA fight, respect is one thing. Still, these two are definitively coming on June 14 to fight. Along with this, Edwards thinks his, "ground game is better," but also says, "that doesn't mean that's the only place I'm going to fight him. This is an MMA fight and I'm going to make this an MMA fight. It's gonna be all around banging. . . My point is that it doesn't have to get on the ground, it just has to get in the cage and there'll be a big smile on my face."

Of course, this fight will take place in Hawaii; thus, it represents somewhat of a homecoming for Noons, which is something that should put a smile on his face.

"When we get in there (fighters) it's not so much like that (about the respect). It's punches throwing, blood flying, feet flying," says Noons.

Yep, that's about right. Still, the respect is something to be proud of in a sport that's still growing. Guess is that after this fight between an MMA veteran with some great credentials and a new kid on the block that just stopped Nick Diaz, most will be talking more about what turned out to be an excellent fight than any respect the two showed to one another.

That is, until they hear their comments afterwards in the cage.

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