FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Yves Edwards and KJ Noons will fight in the main event of tomorrow's Elite XC event.
EliteXC to show its stuff
Local boy Noons rockets into role of headliner
STORY SUMMARY »
Two weeks after its debut on network television, EliteXC returns with a show in Hawaii tomorrow for an event featuring 12 mixed martial arts fights.
Lightweight champion KJ Noons defends his title against Yves Edwards in the main event of the two-hour portion of the show broadcast on Showtime.
Other fighters competing include Icon Sport middle weight champion Kala Kolohe Hose, Mark Oshiro, Nick Diaz and Murilo "Ninja" Rua.
FULL STORY »
If life only took you where you wanted to go, KJ Noons wouldn't have it this good.
Return of the king
Tomorrow, 3 p.m.
Lightweight title fight
KJ Noons (5-1) vs. Yves Edwards (34-13-1)
A boxer at heart, Noons only got into mixed martial arts when friends persuaded him to attend tryouts in California to compete in the PRIDE organization in Japan.
He demonstrated such outstanding striking that he earned a spot in the local Super Brawl promotion, which was affiliated with PRIDE at the time.
Three years and six fights later, Noons (5-1, 5 KOs) has gone from the opening bout of a Super Brawl card to the main event of a Showtime televised event as he defends his lightweight championship tomorrow against Yves Edwards at EliteXC: Return of the King at Blaisdell Arena.
"It's almost like an out-of-body experience," Noons said. "It's crazy. I've got to pinch myself."
Playing the role of the king, Noons entered yesterday's press conference fashionably late, sporting a suit hidden behind a plethora of leis.
SB FILE / 2007
EliteXC lightweight champion KJ Noons takes on a challenge from Yves Edwards tomorrow at Blaisdell Arena.
Instead of fighting on EliteXC's debut show May 31 on CBS -- the first mixed martial arts event broadcast on network television -- Noons finds himself in a better position.
His fight would have reached a larger audience, but nothing was more important to the former Big Island resident than coming back home to fight in the same place his MMA career began.
"It turned out better for me," Noons said. "Now I'm headlining on a Showtime card. So I'm not on the undercard. This is a dream for me to be fighting the main event, especially back in my hometown."
Noons enters the fight as the champion, but is considered to be the underdog against Edwards (34-13-1), who is hungry to win his first major title.
Edwards was considered the UFC's uncrowned lightweight champion during a four-year period the company didn't recognize a titleholder after Jens Pulver left the organization.
By the time the UFC brought back the division, Edwards had left for PRIDE in hopes of winning an elusive major title.
"You go down in history if you have a belt," Edwards said. "One hundred years from now, people won't remember me as the uncrowned champion, but they're going to remember that Jens Pulver was the lightweight champion. I need that belt to be remembered in history."
Edwards went through a tough stretch in 2005, dropping five of six fights at one point. But after a move to American Top Team, where he trains with such fighters as Thiago Alves, "JZ" Cavalcante and Din Thomas, Edwards has returned to his old form with consecutive first-round wins in EliteXC.
"I hadn't even been offered a contract by EliteXC at the time I joined (American Top Team)," Edwards said. "I feel a lot more comfortable. I have a tough day every day at the gym and it's bumped my game up and upped my confidence."
The two fighters aren't strangers to one another. Edwards and Noons have a friendship that goes back to the time Noons graduated from high school. Edwards was already well into his mixed martial arts career and was training in Houston, where Noons had just received his high school diploma.
"When (Noons) graduated from high school, he had good stand-up," Edwards said. "He came in and helped me out and yeah, it extended to a friendship."
Both fighters concede to following each other's careers, but say that friendship won't get in the way of what's expected to be an all-out, stand-up war.
"Yeah, we're friends," Edwards said. "But at the same time we will punch each other in the face come (tomorrow) night."
"Styles (make) fights, so it's going to be an exciting fight," Noons added. "It's going to be fun."