Will Brooks is out for respect at Bellator 131. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Bellator 131 is built around a light heavyweight duel between two stars from a rival organization who borrowed extensively from the sports entertainment playbook to promote a grudge few knew existed.
As a result, the card’s lone title matchup -- a lightweight tilt between Will Brooks and Michael Chandler -- has received second billing on the marquee. While that doesn’t sit well with Brooks, he concedes that it comes with the territory. After all, Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar remain the biggest names on the Nov. 15 lineup, and therefore, will be treated as such.
But even if Bellator is breaking the time-honored tradition of putting a championship fight atop the card, Brooks feels that Ortiz-Bonnar could have been sold a little differently.
“I think that just put an ugly look on the promotion. That approach [Bonnar] was allowed to take as far as bringing in his buddy [former UFC talent Justin McCully], doing that whole pro wrestling skit type of deal, I think that really turned a lot of people off,” Brooks recently told Sherdog.com. “That’s not fair to the other guys in the organization. It’s just not professional; it’s not the way you should do things. To have that as the main event, I think a lot of fans are turned off by it.”
Bellator MMA has a synergy of sorts with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, which also airs on Spike TV. Big-ticket stars such as Ortiz, Quinton Jackson and Muhammed Lawal have all made appearances for the pro wrestling organization. Current heavyweight contender Bobby Lashley is the TNA champion.
Recent history suggests that cross promotion can be beneficial. When “The Ultimate Fighter” first rose to prominence, it aired following WWE’s “Monday Night Raw,” likely capturing the attention of the more established program’s audience in the process. While the two genres might be intertwined, Brooks doesn’t embrace the connection and would not be receptive toward integrating a pro wrestling angle into the promotion of one of his Bellator fights.
“I would definitely veto that,” he said. “I’m not a pro wrestler. I’m a mixed martial artist. I did not get into this business to be a pro wrestler; I did not get into this business to be an actor. This is not acting; this is not a movie; this is not pro wrestling. This is a job. I’m a professional athlete. I put my work in the gym, and I go out there to be a talented fighter and put myself out there as an athlete -- not a pro actor, not a pro wrestler. They would have a hard time talking me into doing anything in regards to that pro wrestling promotion type of deal.”
Differences in fight-selling philosophies with his employer aside, Brooks is aware that he still has some work to do in the cage to receive his just due. Despite having already bested Chandler via split decision at Bellator 120, the American Top Team product feels slighted heading into their rematch.
Although “Ill Will” captured the interim 155-pound title on May 17, his placement on the Bellator 131 poster gives no indication that Brooks was a champion of any kind. If it seems like Brooks is nitpicking, well, it’s the little things that add up. The 28-year-old has long held the perception that Chandler is Bellator’s guy, the one they want to push to bigger and better things.
“Honestly, Chandler was the champion of Bellator for a long time, and I understand that. But at the same time the dude is on a two-fight losing streak, but they’re still promoting him as if he’s the champion -- as if I’m challenging him for the title,” Brooks said. “That’s kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I plan on going out there and making sure they understand I don’t play second fiddle to anyone.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Brooks has added incentive to put a more decisive stamp on his return date with Chandler. If his first win was perceived as a fluke, one that he was fortunate to emerge with the scorecards in his favor, Brooks plans on leaving no doubt the second time around. In an ideal scenario, no trilogy will be necessary.
No, this is it. I’ve been working so hard these past few months. I was back in the gym just because I knew what was going on with [Eddie Alvarez’s] situation with him possibly leaving Bellator and moving on to the UFC. I knew in the back of my head that a rematch with Chandler could possibly happen. The Monday after that fight I was back in the gym,” he said.
“I will do everything I possibly can to make sure this fight does not go to a point where it has people questioning if I won. I’m making sure there’s no room to say that Michael Chandler deserves a title fight again.”