Bellator 182 “Koreshkov vs. Njokuani” comes to Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y., this Friday night (Aug. 25, 2017), featuring a main event between former Welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov against Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani as each fighter looks to stake a claim as the No. 1-ranked contender at 170 pounds.
One problem for both fighters, though, is that “Red King” Rory MacDonald is the man with all the hype on him right now after a successful Bellator debut earlier this year. In other words, to break through to the upper echelon, Koreshkov and Njokuani will need to deliver an extraordinary performance this weekend.
The good news for Njokuani (17-4, 1 NC) is that he delivers time and again. He’s unbeaten in nine straight fights and has finished 10 of 17 wins by knockout, including an amazing Bellator 167 bout that ended in just 21 seconds. The bad news for Njokuani is that Koreshkov (19-2) is just as fearsome, having stopped 10 of his 19 wins via knockout, and few men could be hungrier given he just lost the Welterweight title in his last fight with Douglas Lima.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with “Bang Bang” about a critical Welterweight bout for both his career and his title aspirations, and even Njokuani doesn’t seem phased by Koreshkov as a foe.
“The training’s going good. Same shit, nothing new. Muay thai, jiu-jitsu. I mean he’s pretty well rounded, so he’s not a slouch or nothing, but I’ve fought guys with experience (and) I’ve fought guys that are taller.”
It’s easy to understand Njokuani taking the “same thing, different opponent” philosophy to not get psyched out, but beating a former champion would quickly elevate him into contention.
“I’m sure beating him would definitely put me in talks of a title shot, but seeing how everything is going now, I’m pretty sure Rory is going to get it next and then we’ll go from there. But, I know for sure they won’t be able to deny the fact I deserve a shot after beating Koreshkov.”
Everybody’s talking about Rory, which I’m sure is what both he and the promotion want. Meanwhile, Njokuani says you can sign all the guys you want from UFC or anywhere else.
“I like guys with names, too. They’re not quitters, they’re legit contenders and fighting them brings recognition to us, to Bellator and to this division. Man, more competition? Shit. I mean, I got it all for them.”
Njokuani, for one, is not mad to see MacDonald — or for that matter Lorenz Larkin — jump to the head of the line to fight Lima ahead of co-main eventers like Fernando Gonzalez and Brennan Ward.
“I can see Rory jumping ahead. Lorenz did a nice little number while he was in the UFC so, that’s pretty fairly understandable. So I mean I don’t really see where the big problem is. As long as (guys like) Fernando (Gonzalez) keeps winning fights and keeps putting on a good show, he’ll get a shot regardless.”
Njokuani’s explosive finishes of late might make it seem like he’s trying to upstage the guys in the weight class, but to hear him tell it, knockouts like Andre Fialho were just good timing.
“Shit, I took a reserved approach to that fight, but he just ran into a punch! But, yeah, I’m just gonna go in there and be me and whatever happens, happens. If (Koreshov) runs into a punch and gets knocked out early that’d be perfect, but if we have to go a long three rounds then I’ve been training for that so I’ll be alright regardless.”
For those following Njokuani over his long unbeaten streak, the two knockouts in his last three fights followed a long stretch of wins by decision. Njokuani credits newfound intensity in training.
“I guess it’s a lot of discipline, man, and just focusing on what I need to be doing and what I need to get done, and not worrying about all the bullshit around me, not being distracted by the little things. I just really got in the gym and started getting focused and knowing that if I do well with this career I can really make something out of it and really change a lot of people’s lives that are around me. It’s bigger than me. I’m not just fighting for myself no more, I’m fighting for my family and friends and fans that believe in me, and they gave me that little extra push that I needed.”
When it comes to family, Njokuani follows in the footsteps of his older brother Anthony, something which both molds and inspires him to succeed in Bellator.
“He’s one of my biggest supporters. We’re not real vocal with each other, but the love is like, he’s always been the guy like, getting me more opportunities or giving me like a little bit of advice without trying to be preachy to me and shit. I couldn’t have done this without him, and I hope I’ve helped him out through his career, too.”
Even though they may have fought like brothers growing up, the rivalry has blossomed into a form of self-improvement where each brother inspires the success of the other.
“Yeah, I mean growing up he was older than me, so it was more of like he would just discipline me and I’d have to listen (laughs). But still like, me seeing him win fights and get ‘Knockout of the Night’ and all this shit makes me want to do better and do that for myself. I think that’s where our competitiveness with each other us. He sees me do good so he wants to do better for himself, and I see him do good then I want to do better for myself.”
Tune in for Bellator 182 tomorrow night to see if Chidi Njokuani can inspire his older brother with another sensational win against the tough menacing Andrey Koreshkov.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Koreshkov vs. Njokuani” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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