Chidi Njokuani (10-4, 1 NC) is turning a corner where motivation and dedication are concerned. With guidance from his coaches and older brother, “Chidi Bang Bang” believes he’s maturing and improving in all aspects of the fight game.
In what will be his fifth appearance with Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA), Njokuani isn’t in a rush to make it to the UFC as many of the RFA fighters have done. Instead, he’s intent on using the platform to evolve and flourish until that call comes.
Up next, the welterweight meets Steve Hanna (4-1) on Sept. 12 in New Mexico. After his last outing against Chris Heatherly resulted in a disappointing no contest, Njokuani has strived to perfect his game. At RFA 18, the Texas native will get the chance to show the masses how he’s evolved.
The 25-year-old’s training camp is based in Las Vegas. He splits time between One Kick’s Gym, where he masters his stand up and Sergio Penha’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, where he looks to build a strong foundation for his ground game. Along with his brother Anthony, who’s a UFC lightweight, Chidi trained and competed in Muay Thai from a young age. To date, Njokuani owns 8 of his 10 wins by way of (T)KO. However, he didn’t delve into the intricacies of grappling and wrestling until recently.
“I’ve been working on my ground game, just trying to get better,” said Njokuani. “Even before I knew I was fighting [Hanna], I was in the gym working on my ground. I’m just trying to work on being comfortable in bad positions because I’ve got the stand up part, that’s second nature for me. I’ve been working on my jiu jitsu, making sure I can fight back.
“There is no comfortable position,” Njokuani continued. “When I first started transitioning, even my top game I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel good in any way, shape or form. I’ve been doing a lot of gi too. But then out of nowhere it hit me, like night and day, I started liking it…I realized there was more technique to it than just being slippery and sliding out of submissions. But like now, recently, I’m liking the feeling of being in certain positions. I’m getting down sweeps and rolls and things like that. It’s dope.”
That training will be crucial when he takes on Hanna. Every one of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist’s wins are by way of submission. Additionally, the Colorado prospect finished his last three fights in the first round.
Over the past 6 years, Njokuani attempted to balance competing in both Muay Thai and MMA. He fought Simon Marcus to a draw in 2013 which was his last professional battle in the ring. Since then, he’s chosen to solely pursue his MMA career.
“I’m trying to focus on one thing,” said Njokuani. “I think trying to do too much had me all over the place. I wasn’t able to focus on my ground and my wrestling.”
“MMA is more of a challenge for me,” he added. “I can do Muay Thai, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. MMA, it’s something new to me. I mean, I’ve been doing it for years, but I’m not the best on the ground. In the Muay Thai gym I can play around and have fun, on the ground I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s something new.”
As he continues to round out his arsenal, Njokuani wants to make sure he paces his career the right way. Spending time growing with RFA suits him for now, especially after he saw Ben Saunders’ demolition of Heatherly at UFC Fight Night 49.
“I’m happy. I’m cool with still sitting back,” Njokuani said. “You see what happened when [Heatherly] went to the UFC? It was premature, like we were saying he shouldn’t be there right now. That what happens you get hit with a move and get caught. I’m cool with just sitting back and continuing to learn. When I’m ready, I’ll get called up.”
Njokuani’s taking all things seriously as Sept. 12 approaches. He’s pinpointed his focus on putting on a show at RFA 18 and is distraction-free ahead of the contest. Though Njokuani admitted when he first arrived in Sin City, he endulged in the party scene more than training. A year later Chidi’s coaches, Nick Blomgren and Sergio Penha, and his brother Anthony intervened. They told Chidi it was time to change things if he wanted to be a professional fighter.
He realized they were right and buckled down. Chidi even got rid of his Xbox after going on a Call of Duty binge and skipping practices. When it comes down to it, Njokuani wants to seize every moment that lies ahead in his career. Heeding the advice of his brother, who is 8 years older, has been key to his progress.
“He’s a big influence on everything I do. If I’m not in the gym, he’s always pressuring me to get back in. Or if I’m in the gym, he’s always motivating me to get better.”
An a RFA fan favorite, Chidi sees the chance to really make a name for himself by scoring an impressive win over Hanna. When he steps into the cage at the Albuquerque Convention Center, it’ll be his opportunity to show the culmination of his hard work.
“It’s dope because I feel like I can be one of their superstars. As they grow, I grow with them.”
Chidi Njokuani meets Steve Hanna at RFA 18 on the AXS TV main card. Headlining the event on Sept. 12 is a flyweight title fight featuring Matt Manzanares against Alexandre Pantoja.