Chidi Njokuani seeks results, not notoriety or fame. Often overshadowed by fighters with big names and bigger personalities, he marks his success by getting the job done inside the cage. So far, so good.
The 28-year-old Dallas native has been on a tear for more than two years, having gone 11-1 with one no-contest across his last 13 appearances. During this run of success, Njokuani has recorded six knockouts, captured the Tachi Palace Fights welterweight championship and signed with Bellator MMA. The Saeksan Janjira, Nick Blomgren and Sergio Penha disciple has compiled a 3-0 mark in Bellator and put himself in contention for a shot at promotional gold at 170 pounds. For now, Njokuani remains content to take it one fight at a time.
“I don’t know. Whenever they want to give it to me,” he told Sherdog.com. “I am ready whenever. It’s nice to be known as the best and be able to prove it by having the belt, but it is what it is. I just want to fight, man. If more money comes with winning the belt, then yeah, I definitely want it.”
Njokuani believes he will get his just due in time.
“I feel like I got a lot to learn, but I feel that I am very capable of being recognized as the best,” he said. “I’m not too worried about what anybody else thinks, and that ranking s--- doesn’t do much for me. I don’t care what others think because they are just opinions. It don’t mean anything to me. I just want to fight.”
Whether or not Njokuani maximizes his potential in Bellator remains to be seen. His next assignment comes in the Bellator 171 main event, where he meets Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Melvin Guillard on Friday at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. Always one of the most physically gifted fighters in the sport, Guillard has proven fight-ending power in his hands and a wealth of experience upon which to draw. He has delivered 21 of his 32 career victories by knockout or technical knockout.
“He’s explosive, very explosive,” said Njokuani, who holds notable wins over Max Griffin, Gilbert Smith and Alan Jouban, among others. “He has a lot of power, but he gasses sometimes and I don’t think he has much of a chin. Other than that, he’s very athletic, and I’m looking for a tough fight. I’m just looking out for all those wild punches being thrown, keeping my composure and picking him apart.”
Guillard has oftentimes been his own worst enemy, inside and outside the cage. He was suspended for cocaine in 2007, and the result of his most recent bout -- a knockout of David Rickels at Bellator 159 -- was changed to a no-contest after he tested positive for a banned substance. Guillard has not tasted victory since he stopped Gesias Cavalcante with punches and elbows at a World Series of Fighting event in July 2014. He has also not shown much stability with his approach to training, as he has operated out of four camps in seven-plus years: Jackson-Wink MMA, the Blackzilians, American Top Team and the Grudge Training Center. Still, Njokuani expects “The Young Assassin” to be as dangerous as ever.
“I respect all of my opponents, and I train expecting to fight them at their best,” he said. “If he comes out half-assed, well then, that’s his decision, but I’m getting prepared for the best Melvin that anybody has ever seen. I don’t care what he does outside the gym; I prepare for everything.”
Njokuani has finished his last two fights in spectacular fashion, including a 21-second knockout of Andre Fialho at Bellator 167 on Dec. 3. He prepared for Guillard from all angles, and the thought that the New Orleans native might shoot for a takedown has not escaped him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did that,” said Njokuani, who has never lost a decision. “Most strikers that I fight, their gameplan is to always just come out and take me down, so I’m always working on my wrestling skills, too. So yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did try to bring the fight to the ground, but I don’t think he will. I don’t care what he does; that has nothing to do with me.”