Welterweight Chidi “Bang-Bang” Njokuani’s return to the RFA this past March did not go as expected.
Just past the three-minute mark in his bout against Chris Heatherly, an illegal elbow to the spine ended the fight early and the match was declared a no-contest.
For Njokuani it may have derailed momentum he had built up last year, but he’s not going to dwell on it.
“It was a lot disappointing,” Njokuani told MMAWeekly.com. “I didn’t get my hand raised, so it didn’t feel like I won the fight.
“I feel like I was just getting started. I didn’t really get to showcase any skills or anything. Then again, it’s in the past and there’s nothing I can really do to change it. I’ve got to just move on from it.”
In the six months since the no contest with Heatherly, Njokuani has worked hard on developing the areas of his game he feels opponents target the most.
“My focus has definitely been my ground game,” he said. “Fighters think to beat me all they have to do is take me down. I really wanted to focus on my weak points, which were my wrestling and jiu-jitsu and make sure to sure that up.”
Njokuani (10-4) will seek to make his second RFA bout have a decidedly different outcome when he faces Steve Hanna (4-1) at RFA 18 on Friday night in Albuquerque, N.M.
“From (Hanna’s) record he looks like a pretty strong jiu-jitsu guy, so what I’ve got to do is just play my game, keep it on the feet and go for the knockout,” said Njokuani. “I’ll do whatever it takes, but I’d prefer to keep it in the feet if I can get the W that way.”
Even though he’s faced more opposition at a higher level than Hanna is, Njokuani doesn’t feel he can bank on that Friday night to be a deciding factor in the fight.
“We’re not fighting each other’s records, we’re fighting the person that’s in front of us at that moment,” said Njokuani. “The guys that I did fight in the past did help me learn what I should and shouldn’t do, but it’s still a fight and anything can happen, so I’m prepared for whatever.”
Should Njokuani defeat Hanna, his RFA record will stand at 3-0. Still, he doesn’t want to focus too much on anything other than the task at hand.
“I’m not too worried about the future,” said Njokuani. “I’m just worried about Friday night. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I’ve got to go in there and perform and that’s the only thing I can control.”