Dave Jansen has won seven straight fights in Bellator. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Whether in day-to-day conversation or in the more formal setting of an interview, Dave Jansen seems to pride himself on keeping it real.
But when it comes to his opponent at Bellator 136, reigning lightweight champion Will Brooks, Jansen sees someone he thinks is “playing a character.”
“I don’t think he comes across as genuine,” Jansen told Sherdog.com. “I’m being myself. I’m talking to you like anyone I would talk to in the coffee shop or in the gym. And Will is very evident to me that he’s dishonest with himself, dishonest with others. He comes off as a bit of a phony.”
It is a rather interesting assessment of one of Bellator MMA’s breakout stars, who rose to prominence in 2014 on the strength of back-to-back triumphs over perceived promotional figurehead Michael Chandler. Along the way, Brooks established himself as someone unafraid to voice his opinion, from calling anyone who doubted his pay-per-view viability opposite Chandler at Bellator 120 “a fool” to expressing his displeasure at the sports entertainment tactics utilized to build the Bellator 131 headliner between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar.
Although Jansen says that he doesn’t pay close attention to media reports, he claims to have heard enough from Brooks to label him disingenuous. However, the Portland, Ore., native has found one aspect of Brooks’ persona to be sincere.
“I’ve seen the fear. I feel it,” Jansen said. “I feel Will Brooks’ fear and that’s genuine, and that’s what’s coming across in the interviews that I have seen.”
Jansen took the long road to a shot. The 35-year-old won the promotion’s Season 7 lightweight tournament with triumphs over Magomed Saadulev, Ricardo Tirloni and Marcin Held. Unfortunately for Jansen, an ACL injury nixed a scheduled bout against then champion Michael Chandler in June 2013.
“The Fugitive” would not return to the cage until some 19 months later, not for a title shot, but for a chance to re-establish himself in the division. While Jansen could have conceivably waited to claim what he rightfully earned, his unanimous decision win over Rick Hawn at Bellator 130 removed the rust -- and any doubt that he was still the No. 1 contender.
“It was really to solidify my claim to the No. 1 contendership. I knew I had all the capabilities to beat Rick,” Jansen explained. “When Bellator executives called me and offered me that fight, I said yes in a heartbeat. They seemed surprised because I think a lot of people would have turned down that fight right away. I was really grateful for the opportunity.”
Jansen enters his showdown with Brooks on a seven-fight winning streak that is probably as stealthy as any you can find in a major MMA promotion today. He is well aware of his low-key status, which he attributes primarily to training in the Pacific Northwest. To get where he stands now was a painstakingly slow process -- not that Jansen minds.
“I’m coming up on a decade in this sport to really put all the pieces together perfectly like I have now,” he said. “I’m loving it. I really don’t mind when people take me lightly. It seems to work out in my favor.”
While Jansen says he benefitted greatly from taking the fight with Hawn, he plans on completely reinventing himself by the time he steps into the cage with Brooks on Friday night at Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif.
“I changed everything for Rick, and I’ve changed everything for Will. It’s gonna be a shock to his system that he’s prepared for a different fighter -- just like Rick prepared for a different fighter,” Jansen said. “Will’s watched all the tape with his coaches, and they’re in for a very rude awakening when they realize we did it all wrong. I’m looking forward to it wholeheartedly.”
As a general rule, Jansen is not opposed to switching things up -- both in training and on fight night. To wit: For his current camp, a New York-based company called SUSOIX sent Jansen a product he refers to as a “kick bike,” which he employed liberally during strength and conditioning sessions.
“The kick bike itself is something I’ve been using to strengthen my independent limb development and my conditioning at the same time while keeping a low impact on the body,” Jansen said. “Going up hills with it three or four times a week. It’s something else. The power and the speed is gonna be there, the balance. Everything is sharper than ever.”
While that certainly doesn’t fit anyone’s ideal for a typical method of training, Jansen doesn’t really fit the mold of a typical fighter. If he can defeat Brooks, he’ll stand that much further apart from the pack, this time as a Bellator lightweight champion.
No matter how much Brooks might try to hide it, Jansen believes the current titlist is well aware of the challenge he presents.
“I don’t think he’s taking me lightly. He knows deep in his heart how dangerous I really am and what a threat I am. He knows,” Jansen said. “But he seems to be lying to you guys. And maybe he is lying to himself, trying to lie to himself. He knows I’ve got his number. I know I’ve got his number. He can’t hide from the truth.”