Early in his career, mixed martial arts was little more than a hobby for Chidi Njokuani.
“Before it was just something I was doing. I wasn’t really sure where I was going with it -- didn’t really care about winning or losing,” Njokuani told Sherdog.com. “Now it’s more something I want to be great at.”
While the younger brother of UFC and WEC veteran Anthony Njokuani was never a slouch in the cage, he has been on a roll of late. The 28-year-old Las Vegas resident is unbeaten in nine bouts since August 2013, with a no contest against Chris Heatherly at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 13 the only blemish on his ledger during that time. His hot streak includes wins over UFC veterans such as Melvin Guillard, Gilbert Smith and Max Griffin as well as knockout triumphs against Andre Fialho and Thiago Jambo Goncalves.
Njokuani attributes his success primarily to improved mental focus.
“I guess I’ve taken it a little more serious. I understand the game and I understand what I should be doing and shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “I’m just trying to apply it now. My mental state has probably improved the most on how I go about handling fights and training camps.”
The man known as “Chidi Bang Bang” has improved his work ethic, as well.
“I just train more instead of taking a lot of time off in between fights or missing days of training for any reason I can think of,” he said. “I just take it a lot more serious.”
As a result, Njokuani has been booked in the most significant bout of his career to date, as he will face former 170-pound champion Andrey Koreshkov in the Bellator 182 headliner on Friday night. The evening’s main card will air on Spike at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
Despite his recent success, Njokuani might be flying under the radar thanks to Bellator’s recent string of high-profile free agent signings. A few of those, notably Rory MacDonald and Lorenz Larkin, have been in the welterweight division. Njokuani is not too concerned with receiving more recognition, however.
“I’m doing my thing. I’m in my own lane,” he said. “I really don’t care if I’m going under the radar. Or what people think. I don’t care who they think is the most popular fighter. I’m just going to work on winning fights. I don’t really care about that s--t.”
At the moment, MacDonald is the division’s No. 1 contender, and he will likely face reigning champion Douglas Lima at a later date. But if Njokuani gets by Koreshkov, he believes he will have done enough to earn a title shot.
“It’s my fifth fight in Bellator. I’ve put in some of the work,” he said. “If I get the shot I don’t think it’s too early. I feel like I’ll be right on time. As of now I’m not really worried about it. If the call happens, it happens. As of now, I’m just trying to focus on Andrey.”