Though he earned his shot at the Bellator lightweight championship by winning a tournament last year, the actual fight itself was an unexpected surprise for Will Brooks.
With the event due to replay Friday night on Spike TV, Brooks spoke to MMAWeekly.com to look back on his fight with Chandler and what winning the Bellator title means to him.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Will, take us back before the fight itself and tell us how it felt to get the call to replace Alvarez against Chandler at Bellator 120.
Will Brooks: It was a real shocker. I thought my manager, Monte Cox, was messing with me because he’s a kidder and likes to joke around with guys. I told him it wasn’t funny, but he told me it was serious and I just felt a lot of different emotions.
I was a bit excited, a bit nervous, happy and kind of sad also because I didn’t know if (my originally scheduled opponent) Nate Jolly was going to be able to fight – so it was a lot of emotions – but overall I was excited to take on the opportunity.
MMAWeekly.com: As you mentioned, you were already preparing for a fight with Jolly. How did the change in opponent affect your training, if at all?
Will Brooks: Training at American Top Team, we don’t train for a particular opponent, so it helped me out a lot. I was working different skillsets prior to the fight and working on different things that I wanted to do overall in any fight. So going into that fight, physically and mentally, I was more than ready.
MMAWeekly.com: Looking back, what are your thoughts on the fight with Chandler?
Will Brooks: One of the things I focused on in my training camp was my striking because I knew I’d be fighting guys like Michael Chandler. I knew he’d been working a lot on his striking, so it surprised me when he came out and went right into wrestling. It caught me off guard a little bit, but once I got my feet underneath me and started getting more relaxed I felt comfortable and started letting my hands go and got my technique going.
I started feeling a lot better about the fight and I felt like I could give him everything he could handle and I don’t know if he was really prepared for that.
MMAWeekly.com: The fight ended up going to the judges’ scorecards. How did you feel when they announced that you had won by split decision?
Will Brooks: I actually kind of forgot that there was a result because I was just so excited about the things I’d done and was thinking about my next training camp and continuing to evolve. In the moment when they were going to the judges, it didn’t register to me that the fight was over and they were trying to figure out who won.
When they called my name it was like, “Holy smokes!” I took off running and was just really, really jacked up and excited. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I just took off.
MMAWeekly.com: Take us to a few days after the fight and things have sunk in that you’re the Bellator Interim Lightweight Champion. How did that feel?
Will Brooks: It was a really humbling experience. It grounded me a bit more. I started to realize that there’s still work to be done. I started to realize that if I really put my mind to it that I could be one of the best guys in the lightweight division. I wanted to get back into the gym and have a full training camp and see what I could do against a guy like that. I was just kind of all over the place.
I started thinking about Alvarez and going after somebody like that and showing what I got. It was just a lot of different emotions running through my mind. My coaches had to sit me down and tell me to relax, sit back and regroup and take it all in and enjoy the fact that I won instead of jumping ahead and maybe fighting Alvarez or getting a rematch with Chandler.
MMAWeekly.com: For people who hadn’t seen it on PPV who will now get a chance to watch the replay on Spike TV, what do you want them to take away from the fight?
Will Brooks: I think the one thing is that I want them to take away from the fight is that it was just two guys who came in there and put their hearts out there for the fans. We went out there to entertain the fans. We fully understood what was on the line, but I think we were more focused on giving the fans a good show.
MMAWeekly.com: What’s next for you?
Will Brooks: I’m still in a dream state. I think about the things that my family and I have gone through and some of the sacrifices we’ve all made and the hardships that we’ve gone through – and I’m here now challenging guys for titles. Just a little while back, I was sleeping in my car just so I could train for amateur fights. I actually slept in an abandoned book store just so I could be close to my gym and train and be close to my job. I scarified a lot of things to be in the position I’m in now.
Every opportunity I’m given to be in the mix and everything, it means the world to me. I want to be able to share this with the fans. I want to be able to express myself, who I am as a person, and hopefully share a little of my life experiences with them. I’m very excited about what the future holds. There are a lot of good things ahead for not only me, but for the fans and everyone involved in Bellator. I’m excited to be part of it.