Rising Lightweight Will Brooks Embracing Being “Thrown Into The Fire” As Bellator Tourney Begins
By Kelsey Mowatt
The MMA career of Will Brooks has reached new heights in just a matter of weeks, as after taking out former Sengoku champion Satoru Kitaoka in impressive fashion at DREAM’s New Year’s Eve card, the undefeated fighter is set to compete in Bellator’s lightweight tournament. It’s been a dramatic turn of events for a man, who just a couple of months ago, was far removed from the sport’s center stage.
“This is a great opportunity; I’m really excited about it,” Brooks said on Full Contact Fighter Radio this week, while discussing his invitation to compete in Bellator’s lightweight tourney, which kicks off tonight in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. “It’s a real quick turn around for me, especially since I just came off this DREAM fight…the 31st of last month I was in Japan.”
Fighting in only his eighth pro bout, Brooks overwhelmed Kitaoka with his wrestling and striking game throughout much of the tilt, before stopping the 50 fight plus vet with strikes in round two. The impressive and memorable win evidently did not go unnoticed by Bellator officials.
“To come back home, and to literally just get off the plane and get home and there’s a Bellator contract waiting on me at home, an opportunity to fight in the tournament, it’s a quick turn around and a great opportunity.”
While “Ill Will” Brooks may not have been a familiar name with many observers throughout the world of MMA, the 26 year-old certainly caught the attention of Glory Sports International and DREAM, by going 7-0 while competing for Mid-West organizations in the U.S. Although the former collegiate football player didn’t expect big things to arise out of his bout with Kitaoka, Brooks was tapped to fight Ricardo Tirloni live on Spike.
“As far as getting that win, I didn’t really think that it was going to have anything to do with getting an offer from anyone here,” said Brooks. “For me, I was just really focused on that one opponent and that one fight. I was just trying to do the best I could and fortunately I was able to get a W there. It was my first time going out of the States and fighting such a high level opponent…fortunately with a win out there it put me in a good position here.”
While Brooks showcased his stand-up skills in his fight with Kitaoka, arguably the most impressive element of the bout was his willingness to take the feared submission artist to the mat. In fact, the former high school wrestler scored several takedowns during the bout and finished Kitaoka off with ground-and-pound strikes.
“I was concerned about some of the things he could do on the ground,” Brooks noted. “But at the same time, I was over here in Florida, at Coconut Creek, training at American Top Team with Ricardo Liborio, Jorge Masvidal, and a bunch of other black belt, jiu-jitsu players and they were really helping me.”
“They were making sure I was prepared and very ready to defend any type of leglock, anklelock, anything like that,” Brooks added. “It was just being prepared for that, and going back to knowing that I have a very solid wrestling background.”
Now, Brooks will face another accomplished grappler in Tirloni, who is a BJJ black belt out of Santa Catarina, Brazil. The lightweight is coming off a tightly contested, split decision loss to Dave Jansen in the semifinals of a Bellator’s last tourney in November, after submitting Rene Nazare with a Brabo Choke in the quarterfinals.
“He’s a threat,” said Brooks. “Any opponent that I fight is going to be a threat. They’re all going to be good at something and they’re all going to be prepared and ready.”
“I’m still young in my career and I don’t know too many fighters. I’m kind of learning as I go, but right now I kind of got thrown into the fire and I’m learning while I’m in battle. So, right now I don’t know much about everybody but I’m doing my studying, I’m watching film, and putting together a game plan and a strategy on how to compete, and come out with a W.”
Tonight’s Bellator card will be hosted by the Soaring Eagle Casino and will be broadcast live on Spike.