Both Brookins and Johnson were part of coach Georges St-Pierre's team, and both believe being picked by the UFC welterweight champion instead of by rival Season 12 TUF coach Josh Koscheck has made them better fighters.
Throughout the season, it seemed – at the very least thanks to the editing – that St-Pierre's coaching methods were paying more dividends than Koscheck's style. And both Brookins and Johnson said as much Thursday on a media call for their Season 12 championship fight on Saturday.
"During the season, it became apparent fairly quickly that we were given a different set of coaches, a different look, so to speak, than the others on the other team," Brookins said. "I think we were cultured from these people from all over the world, and you didn't want to brag to the other team, but you almost had something to brag about – they're getting the same guys, one school, there's no variety. So you could tell pretty quick we were getting a different coaching staff than the other team."
At various points in the season, St-Pierre brought in Olympic wrestling medalist Gia Sissaouri; brought in Mike Tyson to speak to his team; brought in renowned Muay Thai fighter Jean-Charles Skarbowsky; and had standout coaches like Greg Jackson, Firas Zahabi and Phil Nurse in the mix, as well. Koscheck's coaching staff consisted primarily of his teammates and coaches at the American Kickboxing Academy.
Johnson, who said he spent time after taping ended training with Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, N.M., agreed with his Team GSP teammate.
"I knew coming in that Georges was going to bring in great coaches that made him great," Johnson said. "I think the main thing that separated our coaching staff from (Koscheck's) coaching staff was Georges actually trained with us every day. I got a feeling that Koscheck didn't do that – he was more 'Let me sit on the side and try to kill these guys through six weeks' as opposed to helping these guys win."
Johnson also said had things gone differently for him at the start of the season, he might not be where he is today – preparing to fight for the Season 12 title. Believing Koscheck would want to take St-Pierre's top choice with the first pick, St-Pierre employed a bit of gamesmanship and managed to make Koscheck believe Johnson wasn't his top choice. Had Johnson wound up on Team Koscheck, he said, things might not have worked out as well for him.
"I know the type of fighter I am, and my determination probably would have still worked out and gotten me to this point," Johnson said. "But as far as being well-prepared, coaching-wise, looking back on the season and seeing how Koscheck ran his team, I don't think I would've been well-coached and well-prepared. I think I would've been tired and worn out from his training and wouldn't have been as ready for these fights."
Brookins' pre-show experience was fairly extensive, including a loss to UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at WEC 36 and a win in Bellator's first event. He believes his experience with St-Pierre has helped him most in the mental aspect of the game.
"I think the biggest thing that I took from it was my mental outlook toward fighting," Brookins said. "Everything I learned on the physical front, I realized after the show is going to take me years to perfect and to really understand. But the way that I perceive the sport, the way I go about it, was changed completely by that set of coaches. I'm really thankful for that."
The live season finale of "The Ultimate Fighter" takes place Saturday at The Pearl at The Palms in Las Vegas. Brookins and Johnson will fight for the Season 12 title as the co-feature. Also on the card, Season 1 runner-up Stephan Bonnar fights Igor Pokrajac in a light heavyweight bout and former top middleweight contender Demian Maia meets Season 3 winner Kendall Grove. The main card airs live on Spike at 9 p.m. Eastern.