"I am feeling a little bit of pressure to get a win, but I’m not going to allow that to stop me from going out there and doing my thing." - Anthony Njokuani
When Anthony “The Assassin” Njokuani squares off against hard-hitting Daron Cruickshank in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada this weekend, he’s not just looking to get back into the win column, he’s looking to do it in highlight reel fashion.
“Beating this guy means a lot to me,” Njokuani says. “I’ve been working my ass off and I want to get that W in spectacular fashion. I want to end this fight with a spinning elbow, that’s what I’m looking to do. Spinning elbow, spinning back kick, I want to give the fans a great fight and I want to make a statement that the old ‘Assassin’ is back.”
Njokuani is coming off a disappointing performance against Vinc Pichel back at UFC 173, and he is feeling the pressure to get back on his feet.
“When I fought Vinc Pichel there was a lot of stuff going on in my life, and now that all of that is completely out of the way, you’re going to see me pull the trigger more and let my hands, feet and elbows go.”
Cruickshank was riding a two-fight win streak but was stopped short of the coveted three wins in a row with a unanimous decision loss to Jorge Masvidal in his last outing.
Both lightweights are likely going into the Octagon with the same intentions Saturday night.
“He is a devastating striker and a great wrestler, but all of that is nothing new to me,” Njokuani says of Cruickshank. “I’ve been in the biz for fifteen years and if you’re fighting in the UFC, you better be a devastating striker and a great wrestler. I’m not too worried about what he’s got; I just know I am going to go out and get the win.”
Training at One Kick’s Gym in Henderson, Nevada, Njokuani credits a recent addition to his fight team with some marked improvement in his overall game.
“My camp was great. Ever since Jon Fitch joined the team we’ve all been getting our MMA wrestling and MMA jiu-jitsu up to par. He’s brought a lot of knowledge into our camps and it’s been really great working with him. In my last fight I didn’t focus much on my wrestling, but it’s a different story now.”
At age 34, Njokuani is feeling like now is the time for him to turn his career up a notch.
“I am feeling a little bit of pressure to get a win, but I’m not going to allow that to stop me from going out there and doing my thing,” he said. “If I apply too much pressure on myself it will prevent me from executing what I’m trying to achieve. So I’m just going to go out there and treat it like any other fight.”
Not one to make excuses, “The Assassin” said his last performance should not be indicative of what fans should expect to see this time out. The way he puts it, if you’re working any other job you too will experience your bad days, but in the fight business, unfortunately you’re only as good as your last fight.
“You’re dealing with things in your life that distract from going into the Octagon and being yourself,” he said, without going into his personal issues except to say that they’re over. “I was also fighting with one eye after an accidental eye poke in that first round, and he hit me so hard in the groin I was scared I was going to lose a ball. But it’s not like you can call out sick to a fight and say, ‘let’s do this next weekend.’”
The Nigerian-born Muay Thai specialist and WEC veteran seems to have come to terms with whatever had him on the ropes, and just wants to keep improving in the gym, and to get back to his entertaining ways inside the Octagon.
“At my age I am listening to my body more,” he said. “But I still have so far to go and a lot I need to learn and improve on, which I do day-by-day. There are a lot of improvements happening in our gym right now, and I’m excited to show the world what I already know. Yeah, look for a highlight reel finish.”