Bellator 210: “Njokuani vs. Salter” takes place this Friday night (Nov. 30, 2018) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., airing live on Paramount Network. The main event of the evening will see the flashy striking of Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani (18-5, 1 NC) be tested against the stellar submissions of John Salter (15-4).
Earlier in the night on the main card, two of the top athletes in the women’s Flyweight division will also get a chance to showcase their skills as Kristina Williams (2-1) faces off against Bruna Ellen (4-1). Ellen is as beautiful as she is brutal to her opponents. Hailing from Sao Paolo and Team Nogueira you’d expect her to be a submission wizard, but her one finish to date came via first round technical knockout. Time and again she’s shown she’ll set you up with strikes and then take you down to ice out rounds.
Williams, meanwhile, is a quiet fighter who doesn’t beg for attention, but with career victories over Heather Hardy and Emily Ducote on live TV, the spotlight finds her all the same. Her 5’8” height and 66” reach make her a tall drink of water for any fellow Flyweight.
“I think that the fight went pretty well but she fought the smarter fight and she knew that when I came in heavy that she was going to take me down. She kind of just held me there on the ground. I’m definitely kind of disappointed but you know I learned a lot from that fight and I’m going to come back way stronger.”
There’s little doubt that after tasting the striking power in the second round, Letourneau wanted no part of Williams’ stand-up in the third. That’s a puzzle she needs to solve immediately given Bruna Ellen has the same approach.
“That’s something I’ve been working on. I feel like I’ve really come a long way as a MIXED martial artist, where before I focused mainly on just striking. So I was starting to get it dialed in before the Valerie fight, but I really didn’t have as much work in (as I needed). You know it’s just repetition on repetition of defending takedowns and control on the bottom. That’s what I’ve been focusing on and I feel like I’m just far better than I have been in my previous fights.”
Williams had eight muay thai fights before her Bellator career began, so it was fights like her previous bout with Letourneau and upcoming one with Ellen that helped her realize what she was missing.
“I think that’s definitely true, and I was just seeing where I needed to improve and how far I was getting. It just kind of made me think of what exactly I needed to focus on.”
The road ahead only gets harder given Ellen has only lost one fight in the last four years. Williams is eager to take on that challenge and hand her a second loss.
“I think she likes to be on the ground but she also is a striker so I think that it’s going to be a fun fight. I know she’s going to try to take me down so I’m ready for that, but if she wants to strike then you know like in all of my fights (that’s) my favorite thing. She kind of draws you in, she’s someone who likes to draw you in with her strikes and then she’ll go for her takedown. She definitely uses her striking strategically.”
To prepare for the war at Bellator 210 to come, Williams has been up and down the road from Oklahoma to Texas between her American Elite home and Douglas Frey down South.
“My gym at American Elite, I have a new training partner, Sarah Alpar. She’s a wrestler, she’s fighting for the Legacy 135 title on the same night as me actually. My coach Derrick Adkins, and then, I’ve been going down to Dallas some with Douglas Frey and working with other people like that, but I’ve mainly been up at American Elite this camp.”
After three high profile fights in Bellator, Williams admits it’s a little harder to keep a low profile now traveling back and forth or even being out on the town.
“Definitely like when I’m at fights and stuff. Sometimes I’ll run into a person who recognizes me like around town, but just like the general MMA public does notice (me) a lot more, yeah. I don’t mind but it’s just never like... you know I’m very introverted so it’s kind of like ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’ (*laughing*) Yeah I mean, it’s cool.”
So how does a naturally shy and modest person unleash the “Warhorse” when it comes time for a fight? For Williams the cage is an escape from all other distractions.
“It’s kind of just like, it’s me and them and I don’t have to worry about anything. It’s just total release and I can control the moment and let everything go in there. I’ll hear the crowd and stuff but like if I’m speaking in front of a crowd I’ll be super nervous, but when I’m in there it’s more like it pumps you up and like I’m not worried about that at all. I’m just like driven.”
The one thing that may be left for Williams to work on then is her post-victory promo.
“Definitely and especially since I started (in Bellator) I’ve been working on my speaking more, like interviews just like this and then on the spot interviews and stuff like that. That is something that I have been working on, just because it’s something that I struggle with.”
With over a dozen fights combined between muay thai and MMA she’s already used to the spotlight, so a big win over Bruna Ellen this Friday will give Williams more time to practice.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Njokuani vs. Salter” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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