By Taff Davies,
Photos By Bo Cross
Many fans who follow the rapidly exploding sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) have noticed how quickly the sport is evolving. The first major MMA promotion in the U.S. was UFC 1 held in Denver November 1993, when Brazilian fighter Royce Gracie came out in his Jiu Jitsu uniform to beat a boxer, wrestler, and kickboxer in a row, winning the 8 man tournament. From those humble beginnings 16 years ago, today we have numerous fight promotions across the world, including the UFC, WEC, and Strikeforce in the U.S., with thousands of professional athletes striving to make it to the top.
As MMA has evolved, so has the caliber and skill set of the athletes. No longer does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) dominate the sport as it once did. Now, the true combat athlete also needs to be skilled in other disciplines such as Muay Thai, Wrestling and especially Boxing. Perfect examples of these well-versed athletes are MMA Fighters BJ Penn, George St. Pierre, and Anderson Silva, all champions in the UFC.
But even rarer than MMA Champions who are skilled in multiple martial arts is the athlete who is able to successfully compete in both Boxing and MMA. One such athlete is Karl James Noons, better known to his family, friends and fans as KJ. Although there has been a lot of news lately about the return to Boxing by well-known MMA fighter Nick Diaz, his upcoming fight will merely be Diaz’s second Boxing match. In comparison, the talented and charismatic Noons has a professional Boxing record of 10-2 with 6 KO’s, a Kickboxing record of 13-1 with 10 KO’s, and a MMA record of 6-1 with 6 KO’s.
This ability to fight on multiple fronts is a testament to KJ’s upbringing, training, athleticism, work ethic, and coaching. The son of Karl Noons Sr., who was a professional kickboxer in Hawaii in the 1970’s, KJ was raised in Hawaii until he was 16. He started martial arts training when he was 5, earning his black belt in Kenpo Karate at the age of 11. When he was 10, KJ started Boxing and by 12, he was Kickboxing. When he was 15, he began training Muay Thai and by 17, won the ISKA Super Middleweight championship. After making it to the semi-finals in the 2004 Olympic Boxing trials, KJ turned pro as a boxer, moved to San Diego and in 2005 won the Pride Fighting Championship’s auditions as best striker.
In 2006, KJ signed a deal with Elite XC that allowed him to participate in both Boxing and MMA. He then fought Nick Diaz in November 2007 for the Elite XC Lightweight MMA Championship. KJ won the fight by TKO after cutting Diaz so badly in the first round the match had to be stopped. In June 2008, KJ defended his Elite XC title, beating MMA veteran Yves Edwards in 48 seconds of the first round, once again by TKO.
Afterwards, KJ continued his Boxing career, with his thirteenth Boxing match with TKO World Championship Boxing at Pala Casino in Oceanside CA on August 22. After that fight, KJ set another Boxing match in Fall 2009, to be followed by a MMA fight at the end of the year. With such a demanding schedule in multiple sports, KJ truly embodies the spirit of the combat athlete.
It’s often said that to be the best, you have to train with the best. Nowhere is this truer than in the fighting arts. To further his quest for future championships in both Boxing and MMA, KJ has enlisted well-known trainer and fellow former Hawaiian Rob Garcia, who also lives in San Diego. Garcia spent the past 8 years as the conditioning coach for Golden Boy Promotions and Oscar De La Hoya until Oscar’s retirement this year. Besides having an extensive competitive Boxing and Jiu-Jitsu background himself, as well as two decades of athletic coaching for numerous world class athletes, Garcia spent the past 8 years working closely alongside famous Boxing coaches Freddie Roach and Floyd Mayweather Sr., learning everything possible along the way from two of the best in the Boxing business.
Armed with his weapons of knowledge and experience, Garcia is determined to bring KJ to the top of both the Boxing and MMA worlds. In this quest, the duo have been training at the best gyms they can find, including Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing in Hollywood as well as The Arena in San Diego. The Arena is the well-known Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, MMA, and Muay Thai gym that caters to professional and amateur fighters, with one of the best fight teams in Southern California.
With all his skills and the strong support in his corner, KJ Noons is truly able to bridge both Boxing and MMA, becoming a pioneer in the process and setting an example for all the combat athletes who will follow in his footsteps as Boxing becomes more integrated with MMA and vice-versa. Without a doubt, we will see much more of this versatile athlete in the future as he continues to blaze a trail across the fighting world.
For more info on KJ Noons, go to http://www.KJNoons.com. For more info on The Arena, go to http://www.TheArenaMMA.com or call 619-222-5554
Side Note: KJ Noons (11-2) earned a unanimous decision win over Randy Pogue (8-9-2) on the undercard of Grady Brewer vs. Albert Onolunose, which was held August 22 at the PALA Casino Spa and Resort in Pala, Calif.