While his next destination still remains a mystery, if Will Brooks goes the route many expect, he could rank among the best UFC fighters signed from Bellator.
The former Bellator MMA lightweight king was released from his contract in May, freeing him to pursue offers from other mixed martial arts promotions.
“Will is a great kid,” Bellator President Scott Coker told MMAjunkie.com on May 14. “At the end of the day, he’s had some good fights for Bellator, but I just don’t think it’s a fit, and he should move on to the next part of his life. I think we’re actually doing him a favor by taking this position. Now he can just move on, and we can move on, as well.
“I just think it would be a waste of time to continue this relationship and try to go through the dance of an option period and a matching period. I just think it wouldn’t have worked out anyway, so we decided today to let it go.”
And with that, Brooks’ reign atop the Bellator lightweight division reached an unceremonious end. “Ill Will” tasted defeat just once in 10 outings with the California-based promotion, a 43-second knockout loss to Saad Awad in his second appearance at Bellator 91 in February 2013.
Brooks rolled after that, capturing the interim lightweight strap with a split verdict over Michael Chandler at Bellator 120 and the undisputed version of the belt with a fourth-round stoppage of Chandler at Bellator 131. He defended the title twice with decision triumphs over Dave Jansen and Marcin Held prior to his release to raise his career mark to 17-1.
While the 29-year-old American Top Team product is not a household name, he is the type of talent that could make things even more interesting in the UFC’s lightweight division. Before he and Bellator MMA parted ways, Brooks was already anticipating his journey into free agency, and competing in the Octagon would fulfill a childhood dream.
“I'm going to be honest with everybody, when I first got into this sport, I wanted to be a UFC lightweight champion," Brooks said during an appearance on ”The MMA Hour” in February. "That's what I wanted to be, and I cannot lie about that. Earlier in my career, that opportunity didn't present itself but the opportunity to fight for Bellator did, so I flipped my goals.”
"I flipped the mindset that I was in at that time, and I said, ‘listen, I'm going to be the best fighter that I can be for Bellator, I'm going to be a Bellator lightweight champion.' I accomplished that goal. That was a goal I set. I accomplished that goal, and now I want to move on to my next goal if that opportunity presents itself."