I’ve spent four out of the last five-plus years covering this sport in the midwest. The Chicagoland area, if you will. While the midwest used to be a hotbed for MMA, it’s died off in recent years, with the best fighters in the area usually realizing they’ve hit their training ceiling then moving somewhere like San Diego, Florida or maybe a desert. Someplace warm. No one likes training in the cold. I’ve learned that.
I’ve also learned that Will Brooks embodies the midwestern MMA spirit like he’s some sort of unofficial Miletich prodigy. He’s the interim Bellator lightweight champ, and is facing Michael Chandler again this Saturday at Bellator 131. He beat the former champ once, and now Bellator is sticking the two together once again, despite the fact that Brooks beat Chandler fair and square in their first meeting.
I sat down and dialed up Will to discuss the growing chip on his shoulder as he prepares to face his adversary this weekend.
To start, I just re-watched the fight and I thought you won, but Michael Chandler claims that the overwhelming majority of fans thinks that you did not win the first meeting. What do you say to that?
I’m still new at this sport, you know? I’m still brand new, still new in Bellator. So of course the fans, seeing as Chandler has been with Bellator for a long time, he’s been in this sport a little bit longer than I have, I think. It builds up that fan base, that are going to back him up, so that’s easy for him to say that of the majority of the fans he won the fight. Yeah, of course, he’s your guy, you know? I’m brand new, not a lot of people know a whole lot about me. They’re just starting to get smaller doses of me, and now they’re starting to understand that I’m a pretty good fighter. He does still have the majority of the fan base on his side because of the fact that he’s been with Bellator and he’s been a champion and he’s done this and done that. Compared to a guy that’s just now starting to get these opportunities and try to build something. I’m not really impressed by that, I’m not really affected by that. It honestly means nothing to me. When I wake up in the morning, I walk into my office and the belt is in my office so what the fans and things people say really means nothing to me.
Speaking of the belt in your office, we’ve seen you take the belt to the beach.
Ha ha ha
What’s the strangest place that you’ve brought the belt?
Yeah, I took it to the beach, that was the one time I did it. I thought it’d be funny and so I took it to the beach.
Just wear it everywhere. Just over your clothes.That’s actually why I did it. Because I remember Tim Sylvia did it and I think Tito Ortiz did it in the UFCor whatever. I just thought it’d be funny to do. It’s just sitting in my office.
Tell Spike to get on it. It’s a whole little series right there. Just you just shopping for groceries at Whole Foods or something wearing the belt, you know? All these, like, innocuous little things. It can happen.Hah, yeah that’d be pretty good. Hah.
If you beat Michael Chandler again, do you think, I mean, it’s obvious because you have the belt, but this is a deep division, Eddie Alvarez is gone, but if you beat Michael Chandler again, do you think you’re completely solidified and justified for a position near the top?It’s a matter of what way the organization goes. Fighting for Bellator, I would say so, but as far as fighting the best guys in the lightweight division, I would say no. Just because Eddie was and still is ranked as one of the top guys in the lightweight division and one part of this job is that you want to fight the best guys. Eddie’s one of those guys and the other guys in the lightweight division but there aren’t too many guys in Bellator being considered the best. I guess the organization puts me at the top, but overall it puts me in a position where I have to kind of pay the bills. And no disrespect to the guys that I’m fighting in the organization, but it still comes down to what the fans think and what is put out there on the grapevine, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. I keep on reading these interviews and watching the videos… Are you right now carrying a chip on your shoulder? Cause I don’t think you’re given enough credit considering how Chandler keeps discussing how he was injured in that fight and came out flat.Yeah, I mean, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder my entire life. I approach everything with a chip on my shoulder. I wear my emotions and my opinions on my sleeve, it’s who I am. I try and be as real as I can possibly be. Throughout my entire life I’ve continued to carry that with me. In regards to what Chandler is doing, I don’t know what he’s saying, but it doesn’t mean a thing to me. I means nothing. At the end of the day, he knows what happened. He injured his ego and he says that Will Brooks is a chump. Even after the fight, I don’t say anything. My ego doesn’t hinder me from showing respect to somebody. I’ll still say “Belt or no belt, Chandler’s still a champion.” Making excuses, that’s a personality where there’s an ego problem. His ego will not allow him to believe that he’s not a world beater. It is what it is.
He was tearing through the division, defended the belt a couple times, and then Eddie obviously was a big wall for him. Do you think it’s almost like a shock to him that he didn’t plow through you? Cause he’s now saying that he’s gonna finish you in the second round, roughly.Yeah, it’s just how he’s been raised. He’s had a lot of people all throughout his life that have probably made several different excuses for him, as far as coming up short in competition. And coming up short in certain things in his entire life, you know? I think it is a cultural thing, I think it is the way he’s been raised. If he’s gonna come out and finish me then more power to him, but I’m pretty sure he said that the last time. Go back and I’m sure you can find something on the internet, some interview, where he referenced how it’s gonna be a quick fight and all these certain things. And it wasn’t the quick fight he thought it would be and all of a sudden “Oh, I was hurt. I was injured.” Blah, blah blah. Well, if you were hurt or were injured or had any problems going into that fight, why are you running your mouth saying you’re gonna finish the guy? Because that’s your opponent, that’s not what you do in this sport. You find things out the hard way when you start doing that. And I think he reached into his bag of excuses and reasons why this and reasons why that and just grabbed the first thing he could think of. Nobody goes into these fights 100%. Like I said, he ran his mouth, things didn’t go the way he thought they were going to go, and he reached out and grabbed whatever he could hold on to.
Interesting, cause he says he hasn’t even watched the fight. Have you re-watched the fight?Yeah, I’ve re-watched it. I’ve re-watched it a couple times. I don’t have too much to say about it. I think I did…I beat him, I beat that guy. His fifth round was one round, one minute of fifth round, that was the only highlight he had in that fight other than the first two rounds where he just kind of laid on me. I don’t know if that was part of his gameplan, or whatever he was trying to do, but he didn’t really do much as far as taking me down. I’ll give him some credit, he caught me off guard, he came out looking for takedowns and I was definitely not 100% ready for that. I was thinking that we were coming out there and he was going to try to box and he’s trying to knock this guy out and he’s trying to knock that guy out. Doing this, doing that. So it kind of put me in a mindset where I didn’t think he was gonna try to take me down. He definitely beat me there, but once he got me down he didn’t really do much. I think I dropped 34 ground strikes to his 0 ground strikes in a round. And I think even if you take the ground strikes that he landed in the first and second rounds, I still blew him out in a landslide as far as that one third round. I was punishing him everywhere, I started stuffing his takedowns and I took his back several times. It kind of made him look very amateurish in certain places and I think that kind of upset him. Kind of put him in a place where “Oh man, what just happened?” He’s got a lot to deal with right now.
Do you believe that you’re ready for his takedowns now?I felt like I was completely ready the first time around. Again, I was prepared to fight Nate Jolly.
So who are you training with down in Coconut Creek? Who are you working with for this camp?Just different guys. Pretty much the same guys I had been working with. Not trying to go outside of that comfort zone, trying to do anything different. We’re just pretty much trying to polish what we did in the last fight. Taking the same approach to everything. Same training partners, same coaches. Same guys as usual: Dustin, Nick Lentz, Mike Brown, Masvidal are the guys I’m training with. We’re all just working. My training camp was working on my striking and going into that fight, we were putting together strategies where I was working on my striking, trying to get away from my wrestling, doing something different. Getting ready for Nate Jolly and we were going to test some new skills against Nate Jolly and I had to turn around and test those skills in live action against Chandler. Again, during that training camp I didn’t train a single takedown. I tried for takedowns maybe twice during that training camp. Just because we were so focused on striking. And that’s what my mindset was when I went into that fight against Chandler, and I completely forgot – I gotta start wrestling. Once I turned it on and got comfortable, watch, as it goes on, that second round, first and second round, all the takedowns he was able to get, it went out the window. He wasn’t able to take me down as much.