Ben Henderson’s road to the WEC lightweight title included a submission win over Anthony Njokuani at WEC 38 in January of 2009.
According to Njokuani, the loss to Henderson was the best thing that’s ever happened to him in his MMA career.
“That loss actually helped move my career along,” Njokuani said. “What I learned from that fight with Ben is I need to train my butt off. It’s tough fighting someone like that but Ben Henderson showed me a lot. That loss showed me I can’t take fighting lightly. I need to be on top of my training, my wrestling, my Jiu Jitsu and I can’t slack on nothing. Fighting him actually opened my eyes a lot. That’s the reason I’m the fighter I am now, because of that loss.”
The results back up Njokuani’s words. Since losing to Henderson, Njokuani has defeated Bart Palaszewski, Mushin Corbbrey and Chris Horodecki all by TKO. As a matter of fact, all three of those TKO’s earned Njokuani “Knockout of the Night” honors.
“It was great, it felt really good,” Njokuani said about getting three straight Knock of the Nights. “To come out there and do my thing it was the best thing ever. It’s a great feeling to win Knockout of the Night. I’m not necessarily going for four straight but if it happens it will be a blessing.”
At WEC 48, Njokuani will try to keep his winning streak alive as he goes for his fourth straight victory when he takes on Shane Roller. Like Njokuani, Roller has been impressive since losing to Henderson himself in 2009, winning his last two fights over Marcus Hicks and Danny Castillo.
“Shane Roller is a tough guy. This isn’t going to be an easy fight,” Njokuani said. “You can expect o see a great fight. There is going to be a lot of action.”
Born in Nigeria, Njokuani and his family moved to the United States when he was three-years old. He began training in mixed martial arts at the age of 17. Njokuani’s says his tough upbringing in Texas is one of the reasons he chose fighting as a career.
“I was getting into fights all the time,” Njokuani said of his childhood. “People weren’t very tolerant. They weren’t accepting of someone from another culture. I had to deal with people putting me down and I turned into an angry kid because of all that. I had a bad attitude and I was always getting into fights.”
While Njokuani had some tough times growing up, he considers his parents as role models and the reason why he became the person he is today.
“I had great parents, loving parents that were very strict,” Njokuani said. “They made me into the person I am now. They wouldn’t allow me to associate with bad people. Once I started getting around those kinds of people they told me I was changing and becoming someone I wasn’t. They kept me on the right path.”
Njokuani’s father passed away in 2004, but his mother remains his biggest fan. While he competes in a violent sport that makes most mother’s cringe, Cherokee Njokuani loves watching her son fight.
“She loves it. If she has a chance she would come and watch all of my fights,” Njokuani said. “When I was fighting in Dallas she was there all the time. She is actually my No. 1 fan.”
At WEC 48, Mrs. Njokuani will watch her son take on Roller in a fight that would put “The Assassin” one step closer to a shot at the lightweight belt should he win. Njokuani believes a victory over Roller will put him in line for a title fight and if he has his way, it will come in a rematch with Henderson.
“Hopefully a title shot is next. I’m looking forward to getting that title shot,” Njokuani said. “I do feel it is my turn for a shot at the belt. Cowboy Cerrone has had way too many tries already. If he doesn’t win it this time, I think it’s time for someone else to get a chance and hopefully that will be me.”
“I would love to fight Ben again. If the WEC told me I was fighting Ben tomorrow, I’m jumping at that chance. I want another shot at him because I believe this time the outcome will be different.”