K.J. Noon has spent the past decade throwing leather in seemingly every other major promotion outside the UFC. This Saturday night in Las Vegas, the next chapter of his mixed martial arts career will begin, as he makes his long-awaited debut inside the Octagon at UFC 160.
It is a moment the former Elite XC lightweight champion has been waiting for, and when the doors to the Strikeforce organization officially closed back in January, the opportunity to enter the UFC presented itself.
The 30-year-old Californian is looking to make an immediate impact in the UFC lightweight division, and he will have the opportunity to do so when he squares-off with Donald Cerrone on Saturday night.
That being said, stepping onto the sport's biggest stage for the first time comes with a unique brand of pressure. And while Noons has a tremendous amount of experience competing in combat sports, there is little that he can do in preparation for fighting in MMA's most successful promotion.
Nevertheless, "King Karl" isn't thinking about "Octagon jitters." He isn't thinking about his recent rough patch or having lost four of his last five outings. The only thing Noons has on his mind is defeating Cerrone. In fact, the San Diego-based fighter fully believes the only pressure that exists in the bout rests squarely on "Cowyboy's" shoulders.
"If there is any pressure, I've turned it into energy to prepare for this fight," Noons told Bleacher Report. "For me, this fight is a rebirth. I've done my time. I've been fighting for awhile. I've already won a world title. Who is the pressure really on? I'm not the one everybody is up on. I'm not the one who is supposed to win. I'm not the one everybody knows about. If you think about it, the pressure is really on him not me."
"I'm very excited about this fight. I'm excited to be in the UFC, and I'm excited to get an opponent like this. It's a big name on a big card. The UFC putting me on the main card against a top opponent shows me I'm being recognized for the things I've accomplished in the past. They put me up there and I'm excited about it. [Cerrone] is at the top right now and a win will put me right up there. It also depends on my performance as well," Noons added.
The matchup between Noons and Cerrone has become an early favorite for "Fight of the Night" honors. Both fighters have built solid reputations for their hard-charging styles and their love for the good "old-fashioned" ruckus.
While the bout presents interesting stylistic differences between Noons' boxing-based attack and Cerrone's Muay Thai/kickboxing skill set, the former Strikeforce title contender is looking forward to answering the challenges the WEC veteran brings to the table.
"He is great with his legs and he's going to be using them in this fight," Noons said. "It's going to be a factor in the fight and dealing with his kicks is definitely something we've game planned for. He's good all around. We've trained for everything and I've definitely upped my game in a lot of different areas. I'm looking to showcase that on Saturday night."
"How many fights of mine have you watched?" Noons asked in regard to earning a fight night bonus. "How many bonuses do you think I should have won throughout my career? I'm not sure, but this might be a good fight on Saturday."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.