On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman spoke with American Top Team fighter and Bellator MMA interim lightweight champion Will Brooks
As recently as 2012, although he was undefeated in MMA on regional shows, Will Brooks was not well-known as a fighter. That changed on December 31, 2012, when he faced the far more experienced Japanese submission master and former Sengoku lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka on the Dream 18 New Year's Eve card in Saitama, Japan. While Kitaoka tried for submissions, Will Brooks outfought him and pulled off the upset with a second-round TKO win, thus exploding onto the international MMA scene.
He soon thereafter signed with Bellator, and entered their season 8 lightweight tournament. After winning his opening round fight, he suffered his first professional loss, falling in 43 seconds of the first round by knockout to Saad Awad on February 28, 2013.
But it was far from over for Will Brooks, as he returned in the season 9 lightweight tournament, which he won. In the semifinals of that tournament, he avenged the loss to Saad Awad, winning a clear-cut unanimous decision.
As the lightweight tournament winner, he was in line for a title shot, but that would not come right away. Bellator booked for the main event of their May 17, 2014, pay-per-view, which was their first attempt at pay-per-view, the lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in a third fight against the former champion Michael Chandler. These two had already exchanged wins in classic fights, so this trilogy was highly anticipated. Instead, Will Brooks was scheduled for another, non-title fight on this card.
Another opportunity would unexpectedly come Will Brooks's way, as shortly before that card was to take place, Eddie Alvarez had to withdraw due to injury. Will Brooks was then moved into the fight with Michael Chandler, with the winner being named Bellator interim lightweight champion.
The Will Brooks-Michael Chandler fight went five action-packed rounds, and resulted in a controversial and split decision, with Will Brooks being awarded the victory and thus the interim title.
He now awaits word about his next fight, whether against the champion Alvarez whose status with Bellator may change soon, or in a rematch with Michael Chandler, or against someone else.
We spoke with Will Brooks Wednesday, July 30, at a Bellator media day at Dave and Buster's in New York.
Shortly after his victory over Kitaoka in Japan, he said, "I think maybe a couple of days after that, I got the contract to sign with Bellator, talked with my manager, and he pointed me in the direction that, he said that this would probably be a good idea, so I went with it. And now here I am today. I think I'm one of the faces of the organization now, and I'm just trying to do my part to continue to help this company grow."
We discussed his fight with Michael Chandler, why he believes that he deserved to win, his strategy during that fight, how he rebounded from his loss to Awad, his training at American Top Team, when he thinks he might fight next, the course of his career, and much, much more.
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Thanks, Eddie Goldman