Anthony Njokuani is no stranger to fighting. When war broke out in his home country of Nigeria, his parents moved the family to the United States, all the way to Texas. Wanting the best for their children, they ran a serious household, sending Anthony and his siblings to school in formal clothes, often a shirt and tie. This led, of course, to teasing and fisticuffs. Anthony is still fighting, only now it’s in the cage of the WEC. Heavy.com’s Jonathan Snowden caught up with Anthony to talk about life, break dancing, and his fight this Saturday at WEC 45 in Las Vegas.
Heavy.com: Son of an immigrant parents. Usually mom and dad want you to be a lawyer or a doctor, professionals like your sister. What do they think of this fighting stuff?
Anthony Njokuani: My parents always said, ‘Whatever you want to do in life, just shoot for it.’ They didn’t insist we become what they wanted. They wanted us to do our own thing and be our own person. I’m very proud to have parents like that, who weren’t necessarily typical Nigerian parents (Njokuani’s father passed away in 2003).
Heavy.com: Before you became a fighter you were a dancer. How in the world did the dance studio become a dojo?
Anthony Njokuani: At the studio where I danced a kickboxing instructor took over part of the space.I ended up training with him for six months and he saw the potential in me. Eventually he opened up his own gym, and that’s when I started training religiously. He threw me in my first fight a year later. He told me after that ‘You’re going to be a fighter.’ that’s all I’ve done since then. Training, fighting, I never had a chance to go to break dancing practice. It was hard to keep up with dancing when he was pretty much taking all of my time. A lot of the people I danced with have become professionals and actors. Sometime I think about what could have been.
Heavy.com: We talked to Jose Aldo after his fight and he came from capoeira. That would have been perfect for you!
Anthony Njokuani: See the thing about capoeira, there were no capoeira schools in Dallas. Until I left. Then there was a guy that opened up a caporeira gym. I was pretty pissed that a school finally opened and I wasn’t able to take part.
Heavy.com: Missed your calling?
Anthony Njokuani: I wish I had known about it before I left, but things happen for a reason. I am happy I came out here to Vegas and I’m blessed with everything God has given me in my life.
Heavy.com: Your such a friendly and talkative guy. You were a dancer for God’s sake. How do you flip a switch and say ‘Now I’m about to punch somebody in the face?’
Anthony Njokuani: I just picture everything that happened to me back when I was a younger kid. Once I tune all that into my head, that’s when Anthony leaves and “The Assassin” appears. That’s pretty much how I do it. Every single fight. I throw everything out the window.
Heavy.com: For you, growing up with tough. You were coming from an entirely different life, this African kid, and kids like to pick on anyone who is different.
Anthony Njokuani: It was hard. Kids making fun of you all the time because of where you are from. Pretty much every single day I was fighting. The fighter came out in me. If you’re fighting every single day you’re bound to become a fighter. I’m actually happy that those things happened to me. It made me into the person that I am now. I’m a positive person now when I could have easily just taken it all and become a negative person. I’m enjoying my life and I’m enjoying my family better now.
Heavy.com: They’re bringing in a guy that’s pretty well known, at least among hardcore fans, name Chris Horodecki, for you to fight. How does that make you feel? On one hand it’s an opportunity on the other it seems they may be thinking you will be a stepping stone for him.
Anthony Njokuani: I didn’t see it that way. When they said ‘You’re fighting Chris Horodecki’ I was like ‘Yes!’ I was pumped about it. Chris Horodecki is a great fighter and a well known fighter. That’s what I came in this business to do-fight the best. I didn’t come here to fight chumps. I want to fight the best fighters.
Heavy.com: He comes straight forward and throws both hands with power. Are you ready to stand and trade with him?
Anthony Njokuani: I’m ready to stand and exchange with anybody they put in front of me. That’s what I aim to do, to give the crowd what they want to see. That’s a fight, not a rolling match. I came to give them a fight. If we have to stand and trade, well, that’s what I came to do. But every time I say I’m going to stand and bang and they say they are going to stand and bang and eventually they try to take me down.
Heavy.com: Funny how that happens
Anthony Njokuani: Yeah. Whatever he tries to throw at me I’m ready for it.
Heavy.com: At 155 pounds you’ve got Jamie Varner in that championship slot. Do you see yourself in line for that title shot if you beat Horodecki?
Anthony Njokuani:If I continue with the way I’ve fought, I do see myself potentially there in the future. Right now I just want to take my time, get more wins. When they do give me the opportunity, I’m always going to grasp it.