As part of my desire to expand coverage on Bloody Elbow to the regional level, I made the trip this past Friday down to Houston to cover Legacy Fighting Championship 10 at the Houston Arena Theater. One of the more interesting fighters on the card was Chidi Njokuani, the younger brother of UFC lightweight Anthony Njokuani. Chidi recently made the transition to MMA after a successful stint in kickboxing. Following his first round knockout victory, I had the chance to speak with both Chidi and Anthony to get their thoughts on the fight and what the future holds for both fighters.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Chidi, that was a very impressive win. How do you think the fight went compared to what you prepared for?
Chidi Njokuani - I prepared for a long three round fight because he looked like a tough guy so I didn't think I would go out in the first round or anything. But it went pretty good. Every time I'd knee him I'd feel him slowly get weaker in his grip so I knew that sooner or later he was going to drop.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Everybody has been super impressed with your stand up but there have been questions about your takedown defense. Do you think you may have proven that you can keep the fight standing if you do face a wrestler?
Chidi Njokuani - Yeah, I've been working on my wrestling a lot since my last few fights. I don't think he was the biggest wrestling challenge that I've had but he was a pretty good challenge to show everybody that my defense had gotten a little better.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Now as far as those fight ending knees and then the punches on the ground, did you expect him to fall over as quickly as he did and not be able to take them?
Chidi Njokuani - No not at all. As the fight went on I knew it was going to happen. But before the fight that was the last thing I expect to happen. But during the fight after the first couple of knees I knew he was going to go sooner or later. One of those knees was going to drop him.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Do you think he wasn't prepared for your stand up?
Chidi Njokuani - I don't know. I really don't know. I don't know what his game plan was. All of his videos show that he's a brawler but everyone kept saying that 'he's gonna try and take you down'. I don't know what he prepared for.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - You are primarily a stand up fighter and you have been transitioning into MMA. How has that transition for you gone from kickboxing and Muay Thai to MMA?
Chidi Njokuani - It's gone good. I mean it's been rocky this past few fights but it's been good. Now I'm starting to get a little bit more discipline and staying in a jiu jitsu gym and it's starting to pay off showing a lot of benefits. I like it. MMA is a whole other challenge. I don't want to say I dominated Muay Thai or anything like that but I've done it for so long that it felt natural. Now MMA feels like a whole other thing. Like I'm fighting my first fight all over again. It's a good transition. I love it.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Is that a weird transition thought? Where you have to change up your footwork and a lot of your mindset?
Chidi Njokuani - It's pretty weird but I'm pretty athletic so I can adapt pretty easily. But it was weird in the beginning. It was really weird actually but I've gotten used to it.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Now for a lot of stand up fighters and super athletic guys, it's difficult for them to pick up a lot of those techniques because they rely on their athleticism. You've seen to be able to do both. What makes you different than the other athletic guys who can't put the game plan and techniques together?
Chidi Njokuani - I don't know. I guess it's the coaches we have. They're all about the same thing which is don't f*ck around. If you want to be the best then you have to train to be the best. You can't half ass it. They don't think talent is anything. They think if you're naturally talented then you still have to stay in the gym longer than anybody has ever been in the gym in their life.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - It looks like you've also got your next booking for May 11th. Is that surreal to you that you're just walking out of the cage and have your next fight scheduled?
Chidi Njokuani - It's happened before but not at this level. An event on HDNet, that's kind of surreal. It's like damn, they want me back already. I'm like damn, Anthony I'm gonna be up there with you one day.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - I guess the last question is...you're like you're brother. You're both very lanky guys, long legs...you could probably pull off a lot of submissions if the fight was on the ground. Is that something you want to start doing? Focussing on the ground game?
Chidi Njokuani - Definitely. I want someone to watch my fights and not know what to do with me. I want them to think that once they take me down, they're screwed. If they stand with me they're screwed. That's why I'm working on getting my wrestling down, my jiu jitsu down. I want to be able to go out there and submit a guy. If I feel like you're getting the better half of me standing up, I want to be able to take you down and smother you on top. If I'm on my back I want to be able to throw up a triangle from the guard. I want to be that guy. That's what it takes. You have to be well-rounded, you can't be good at one thing.
Anthony Njokuani interview after the jump...
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - How are you doing today? You're brother just fought and picked up a super impressive win. What's your thoughts on his fight?
Anthony Njokuani - To tell you the truth I'm so happy it's over. He had me shaking in my boots man. I thought I was gonna take a sh*t when I was standing. I feel really good. I'm proud of him. He fought very well and focused on the game plan. He did what he was supposed to do and you got to see the OUTSTANDING WIN MY FRIEND!
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Now is that difficult where you're cornering your brother and you're watching him fight. You obviously have an emotional investment in it. Is it weird that you have to watch him and maybe things go well or maybe things don't?
Anthony Njokuani - Yeah, that's my little brother. Coming from where he was...he might be a little bit bigger than me and everything but you know that's still my little brother. Him getting into the cage and fighting, I'm always gonna be shaking like I just got robbed or something. I'm always gonna be like that no matter what cause that's my dawg, that's my boy and I love him to death. When I'm fighting, I don't even get like this but when he's fighting I'm a totally different person.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Now what's going on with you? Do you have a fight coming up that you're preparing for?
Anthony Njokuani - Yeah, at UFC 145 I'm fighting John Makdessi. It'll be on April 21st.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Obviously that fight is like months away and you're probably in camp right now but how is the preparation going for that so far?
Anthony Njokuani - Preparation is going well. I'm doing a lot of stuff that I normally wouldn't do that I'm doing now. I'm working a lot on my jiu jitsu and on my wrestling. I'm doing everything I was supposed to do because I don't want the judges taking this fight away from me this time so I'm coming out there guns blazing trying to destroy somebody. That's how it's going for me. Camp is going great. I'm loving my camp right now. Loving the guys who are helping me out. Woo Woop to everybody for helping me out.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - Now you did have that tough fight against Edson Barboza...
Anthony Njokuani - And Danny Castillo. I would say it was a tough fight with Danny.
Matthew Roth (BloodyElbow.com) - But the Edson fight, I had you winning up until the spinning back wheel kick and the judges gave the fight to him. Obviously it stinks...
Anthony Njokuani - That's what I'm saying. I have to do pretty kicks now. Because it seems like pretty kicks and laying on top of a dude is what wins the fight. I guess that's what I'm gonna have to start doing. Start doing little hump action every now and then as I go in. I'm still gonna be the same person and still giving the crowd what they want. That's what I'm gonna do. No matter what, I'm never gonna change a thing. I'm still gonna go out there and give a good show. Put the assassin out there or from what everybody calls me I guess I'm the "Nigerian Nightmare". I guess that's my name because dammit everywhere I look I'm the "Nigerian Nightmare". I'm always gonna continue to do the same thing and put on a good show, that's what's always in my heart.