Strikeforce conference call with KJ Noons and Cesar Gracie; audio and highlights

Strikeforce held a media conference call on Tuesday to help promote the Nick DiazKJ Noons rematch set for Oct. 9 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Only problem was, Diaz decided he was too busy training to show up. At least that is the story his coach, Cesar Gracie gave the attending media members. Gracie filled in for the absent Diaz, left to fend as best he could for the Stockton brawler.

The following audio is a recording of the call. Also, highlights of the call have been transcribed by Strikeforce and have been posted below.

Strikeforce conference call with KJ Noons & Cesar Gracie (audio):

Conference call highlights:

Opening Comments

Noons: “Thank you to SHOWTIME, STRIKEFORCE, and everyone who made this happen.  This is a long awaited match and I am super excited. I have been doing this since I was a kid. I come from a family of fighting. I love mixed martial arts. This is a dream just to be fighting and making a living. October 9 is a long awaited match and for the press, let it be known, I have respect for Nick Diaz as a fighter. He is the best in the world at 170 pounds. But as a person I have different views, which will make it an interesting fight, and there will be a lot of fireworks come October 9.”

Questions & Answers

Is moving up to 170 pounds a big deal?

Noons: “No. I told Scott (Coker) that when I came to STRIKEFORCE that I wanted to fight the best guys.  This is a fight that we talked about from the beginning that we wanted to make. I have been off the MMA scene but I have been boxing ever since EliteXC went under. I have stayed busy, and making 170 is a lot easier than making 155. I had to go under a whole body transformation to the make 155. I am in this to fight the best, beat the best. At the end of the day, people want to see fights and I want to make that happen.  So 170 is not that hard to make.”

How do you prepare for someone with a unique boxing style like Nick?

Noons: “I have respect for Nick as a fighter. He has a good style. I like watching his fights. Styles make matches, and that is what is going to make this match exciting. I don’t have respect for him as a person. He has a unique fighting style and it works for him, but it wouldn’t work for me.  On October 9 you are going to see how the styles match up. Either you like his style or you like my style. I would have to be stupid to think he isn’t going to try to take me to the ground. Being bigger and longer, that is kind of his game.  I have to use my game plan to keep it where I feel like I have the best advantage.”

Are you closing your door as a lightweight, since you are fighting at 170?

Noons: “No my whole goal was to go for the title at 155. The card is interesting because there are two fights on this card I have a potential matchup with. As far as I was concerned I was the one in line for the 155 title. But Gilbert has some stuff going on and I didn’t want to wait.  I just want to go where people want to watch me fight.  One-hundred and fifty-five pounds is my division, but 170 is where the fights at, and I just want to make it an exciting fight.”

You had a lack of interest in a rematch before, how come you are enthusiastic about it now?

Noons: “At the time with EliteXC, I had a different management, and I didn’t have a great relationship with EliteXC. But what topped it off was the fact that at the time I beat someone, who was the best in the world, and they wanted an immediate rematch but only wanted to pay me three times less money. Nick is back on top. I am coming back on top, and I think it makes for an interesting matchup. There is a history there and it’s perfect timing. I think timing is everything.”

Is it going to be a lot tougher to beat Nick the second time around?

Noons: “No. Tell Nick to bring my belt; same result, different day. Styles make fights. He’s gotten better and I’ve gotten better, and it’s going to be an interesting match come the 9th.”

KJ, do you think Nick has gotten better recently with his hands?

Noons: “I think everybody who has time and gets more fights gets better. He’s gotten better and so have I.  The people he has fought are not strikers like me though; they don’t have the pedigree that I have grown up with. It’s just different styles, and I think styles make matches. He has gotten better and bigger. No, I haven’t ever fought at 170 but it will be an interesting fight. You can’t compare me to other fighters he has fought. We fight in different styles. He has beaten some legends but I am a different fighter.”

Do you think being smaller is an advantage for you?

Noons: “I am looking to mix it up. I have to be stupid not to think he isn’t going to take it to the ground. He has a game plan, and is a very exciting fighter. I just have to be ready for that stuff. What makes a good fighter is being able to change during the fight. In the first fight I changed my game plan immediately. If I am winning in the first few rounds I will keep my game, but if he is winning I will change my style to be able to win during the fight. Nick has killed legends, and we are a new generation of fighters so this should be an interesting fight.”

What was your original strategy that didn’t work in the first fight?

Noons: “The whole camp I trained to come forward and make him fight backwards, because he never fights backwards. He probably can’t even fight backwards. His defense is his offense. So in the first fight I was trying to come forward, and he wasn’t letting that happen, so I couldn’t come forward because I didn’t want to get taken down. You have to be able to adjust and I am ready to adjust however he is going to fight.”

What do you think is going to be the biggest difference between fight No. 1 and fight No. 2?

Noons: “He is going to get knocked out. I just train all around as best as I can. When the fight happens I come with a game plan, and I am going to become victorious.”

How will Nick be different in this fight, compared to the last?

Noons: “He is going to want to take me down; wear me down; try to submit me. He’s going to ground and pound and try to get me tired.  My game play is I run up the middle, like a football player, so try to stop me.  He is not going to come out with some crazy stuff. People pretty much stay with their styles. I am just going to run my play, try to stop it.”

How much has your wrestling and grappling improved since the last fight?

Noons: “I am probably the best white belt in jiu jitsu on the planet. I do everything. I travel a lot. I try to mix it up, and I think that is what really makes a difference. I don’t claim to be with any gym. I am with team Noons, and I like all the different gyms because they help me become a better fighter.  I do wrestling, jiu jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, MMA sparing. I work on everything.”

How do you rank Nick’s boxing style?

Noons: “People like to compare the boxing and MMA, and they are two totally different sports. What Nick uses in an MMA ring probably wouldn’t work in a boxing ring, and that goes the same for me. I change my style up as well. My hands are a little bit more down to take away the shot and you have so many more variables. My style changes when I go from MMA to boxing and boxing to MMA. Nick doesn’t do boxing but his style works for MMA, he has gotten better, but so have I.”

Do you expect to dominate this fight like you did last time?

Noons: “Of course I do. What do you think I am going to go into this fight thinking I am going to lose?  When I go into a fight I always think I am going to win.  Every fight is a calculated risk and the harder I train every day I am minimizing that percentage as small as possible.  I take a fight because I know I know I can win.  There is some history and I am a competitor at heart. It is going to take a lot to break me down, trust me.”

Is there any chance that your relationship with Nick will be repaired after this fight?

Noons: “Who knows. After this fight, we might fight again. He keeps winning, I keep winning. I like to watch him fight, but I can’t stand him personally. I have heard he is a nice guy, and I am a nice guy.  But when he pulls stuff that I disagree with, I want to fight him and beat him. The ball is in his court.”

Do you feel now that you got slighted winning a fight that you probably weren’t supposed to win, and does that give you more incentive for the rematch?

Noons: “I just want to fight the best, and he is the best. I am a competitor, so I just want to win.  We have some history and I am the underdog so there is the motivation right there.”

Do you really think that Nick will stand in front of you and box you, or that his ultimate goal is to bring you to the ground, where he feels you are the weakest?

Noons: “His ultimate goal is to take me to the ground but he will stand and bang, to suck me in. I think he will roll the dice to see if he can hang with me on the standup. I just have to prepare the best way I can and go from there.”

Does personal dislike change the training before the fight?

Noons: “Just more motivation to get better and to win the fight. It’s more competitive and it makes your train harder.”

Does it make people take a chance they wouldn’t normally take, because of the personal feeling between you two?

Noons: “Of course, I have respect for him as a fighter, and I am coming to fight and I think he is. I might just throw everything out the window and try to take this guys head off, and he might do the same.  People want to see us matchup because we both want to take each other down.”

Why isn’t Nick on this call?

Gracie: “Nick doesn’t really do the conference calls with the guy he is fighting. He never has, and it’s not in his psyche.  He is too busy training to be on the phone right now.”

Will Nick try to get a takedown immediately or engage Noons standing up?

Gracie: “In a five-round fight I expect it to go to the ground at some point; someone is going to take someone down. I think it is going to be in both departments, a standing fight and on the ground. I think Nick has the advantage on the ground. Obviously there will be standing because the fight starts standing up.  Nick likes to throw punches and he has been training very hard with Andre Ward and he is looking very sharp.”

What is the technique or one fighter that you have trained with to help you counter him on the ground?

Noons: “I train with a different number of guys that emulate his style. I just try to work everything. There isn’t one particular move. I just try to train all around to be best prepared for the fight.”

Cesar, what is Nick’s side about this whole bad blood situation?

Gracie: “I don’t think he has time for that. It’s not something that has bothered him over the years. He pretty much has bad blood for everyone who steps in the cage with him. That is what motivates him, it’s not a personal thing. They are going into battle, and they are not friends with the person they are fighting. That is what makes him exciting.”

Why in particular did you take this fight with Noons?

Gracie: “This matchup is the matchup that STRIKEFORCE said they have for us. Nick is the champion, and they said you are fighting this guy. If it was a different weight class we might have more of an opinion on who he fights, but he is the champion at 170 so he is fighting what is before him.”

What is Nick’s objection to being on the phone with the guy he is fighting?

Gracie: “He just doesn’t operate in that mindset. It is contrary to what makes him tick. He is going to fight, but not on the phone. With Nick the rivalry is never a fake thing. Talking to his opponent doesn’t motivate him. He just wants to fight.”

How badly has he wanted to take this fight and avenge this loss?

Gracie: “Some time ago he wanted this fight at another weight class, and obviously he has moved on and has been fighting since, and now it is back. Of course he wants to fight everyone he has lost to. Who wouldn’t want to avenge a loss? I don’t think it has been gnawing at him. I think his chances are good. He is motivated and has come back before for rematches and done well. This has not been bothering him for years but he is ready for the fight.”

Do you think Nick rushed to taking Noons down in the first fight?

Gracie: “I am not going to tell you too much strategy. I saw the first fight and it looked to me that Nick looked pretty lethargic. He just didn’t look good. He didn’t look sharp, and especially when you go down a weight, because smaller people are quicker. He would throw something out and not bring it back in. He was susceptible to counters, and everything looked a bit off. Since then, he has moved back up in weight, and we have seen a whole different fighter. He is a completely different fighter up at 170.”

Since the first fight, what has Nick done to improve his boxing technique, takedown technique?

Gracie: “He obviously improved his wrestling, and in the UFC he used to get taken down a lot, and he has learned not to get taken down as much. He was losing decision to takedowns, so he worked on that, and he is working on taking people down because it was a weakness in his game. Nick enjoys to box. He likes to punch someone, and working out with pro boxers has helped. He has worked on every aspect of the game. He is a much better fighter.”

Has Nick worked on defending the right hand when he is standing, since he fights Southpaw?

Gracie: “The good thing about Nick is he a natural right handed boxer, he just likes to fight southpaw. It is going to be a long fight, and Nick is pretty relentless, and he has worked on it. We have some right handed fighters that we are working with right now.”

Closing Comments

Noons: “I am training my butt of to win another world title. I have respect for Nick as a fighter, and that is why I am training so hard. My personal feeling about him will be left out of the fight and I am excited for the fight.”

Gracie: “I am looking forward to a great fight. As a fight fan, Nick is one of my favorite fighters, and I never know what to expect. Everyone come out because I expect a great show, and a great fight.”

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