Bellator MMA interim lightweight champion “Ill” Will Brooks surprised many when he won a five-round split decision over Michael Chandler at Bellator 120 in May. When the fighters meet again for the undis-puted title Nov. 15 at Bellator 131 in San Diego, Brooks thinks the rematch will surprise people even more.
“I think people are going to see something different,” Brooks recently told Sherdog.com. “In the first fight, I was happy to be there and I was just trying to help Bellator. I was just happy to be there more than anything, happy to have a good time and play around. This time, I have a full training camp and I’ve progressed off that performance. I’m just going to continue to be myself and be better as a fighter. This time, I’m going out there with a different mindset. I’ve had more time to build up some animosity and aggression towards [Chandler]. I took a little from him last time, but this time, I’m going to take his spirit.”
In the first fight, Chandler took down Brooks -- who replaced former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez on short notice -- in each of the first two rounds. However, in the third and fourth rounds, Brooks brought down Chandler, landed heavy ground-and-pound and even took Chandler’s back in both frames. Chandler staggered Brooks late in the fifth, but two judges scored the fight 48-47 for Brooks, giving him the upset win and interim title.
“I wasn’t intimidated by the idea of coming in on short notice to fight a top-level guy,” said Brooks, a product of Florida’s American Top Team. “I thought of it as just another opportunity to test my skills. Going into the first fight, what helped me was my ability to be comfortable with uncomfortable situations.
“A lot of people would be shaken with a last-minute opponent switch and getting thrown out there to fight a guy ranked up there. Some guys would get rattled, but I train every day for that. Leading up to the fight, I was just enjoying myself and I decided to just going to take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy myself. For me, that's being comfortable with who I am as a person and as a fighter and having confidence in myself.”
Brooks’ fight with Chandler wasn’t the first time the 28-year-old came in as an underdog and knocked off a highly regarded opponent. In December 2012, the Chicago native traveled to Japan and knocked out former Sengoku lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka on New Year’s Eve.
Brooks hasn’t been quiet when it comes to Chandler, and he believes the progression he’s made as a fighter will make beating the former University of Missouri wrestler even easier in their rematch.
“[Chandler] said he’s coming to finish me and he didn’t come close the last time until the last minute of the fight,” said Brooks. “People can go back and watch that last fight and see what to do to beat him. I fought him before on a week’s notice and when I was just learning a lot of skills. I was beating him with skills that I was just learning, things like putting together my wrestling with my standup. I’m going to build off the last fight and take the rest of his spirit. There’s a huge difference between showing up to win and showing up to take his spirit. I personally don’t think he’s ever been that good. He’s not going to evolve as fighter, and I’m going to take him.”
Brooks said he expects to push the pace and pressure Chandler from the start instead of having to rally in the later rounds as he did in the first fight.
“I think I’m going in there with the same midnset and being relaxed with where I am in my life,” Brooks explained. “I just have peace of mind knowing that I have the ability to get the job done. I want to put pressure on him and start out quicker. He’s a front-runner and starts to buiild confidence. He backed me up in the last fight, and that gave him confidence. Once I stood my ground and didn’t back up, he broke mentally a little bit. He tried to hit me with a big left or right hand or preessure me for a takedown, but once I put pressure on him for a takedown, he didn’t like that. I’m going to apply more pressure from the get-go and not try to play catch-up.
“This fight is like a show and I’m going to direct things, and it’s going to be my show. I want to force him to evolve as the fight goes on and I don’t think he’s able to do that.”
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