Will Brooks wasn't a big Michael Johnson fan to begin with, he said. And then what he saw what he did after a fight with Dustin Poirier, that cemented it.
Brooks told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour that he feels like Johnson's post-fight celebration against Brooks' teammate Poirier at UFC Fight Night 94 was "disrespectful." He's very interested in a fight with Johnson next after his bout with Alex Oliveira at UFC Fight Night: Lineker vs. Dodson on Saturday night in Portland.
"He's on my radar," Brooks said. "I've come across him on other occasions. He seems like a real arrogant person to me. I just don't like his demeanor, I don't like his attitude. And again, that example, what he did in the cage just kind of put me over the top. So yeah, after this fight I definitely will be looking for Michael Johnson and I'll make that clear as day to everybody, every chance I get."
Johnson knocked out Poirier in the first round with a beautiful combination and then stood over Poirier and said "f*ck you!" Johnson and Poirier exchanged a lot of trash talk leading into the fight and had to be separated a day earlier at the weigh-ins.
Brooks (19-1), the former Bellator lightweight champion, doesn't think that matters. He felt like Johnson owed Poirier at least a modicum of respect.
"This is the fight business," Brooks said. "The fight game is unforgiving sometimes. Some guys are gonna win; some guys are gonna lose. Michael Johnson won. He won. And good for him. But the way he carried himself after winning with the standing over Dustin and cussing him out the way he did and saying what he did. That right there, I feel like you never do that as a man.
"You always respect him as a man. That guy that you just beat went in the gym every single day, made sacrifices, put in the time to deserve your respect. And showed up that today, stood across the cage from you and battled with you. And for you to stand over him and talk like the way you were talking, that's disrespectful. As a man, I can't respect that."
Brooks and Poirier fight out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. Johnson trains with the Blackzilians in nearby Boca Raton. The two squads have a heated rivalry, even featured last year on The Ultimate Fighter. There is no love lost there and Johnson doing that to Poirier only raised Brooks' ire.
"I was definitely fired up," Brooks said.
Johnson (17-10), who established himself again as one of the top lightweights in the world with the knockout of Poirier, was just booked against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 in New York. That could end up being a title eliminator considering both men are ranked highly. Johnson, 30, has won five of his last seven fights.
Brooks might have to wait to get that fight, but he's busy himself with Oliveira on Saturday night. "Ill Will" made his UFC debut by beating Ross Pearson by unanimous decision in July. But Brooks feels like this bout is more like his first in the UFC, since the Pearson one came on short notice.
Many expected Brooks to get a top-ranked contender in his second fight considering he came in as a champion in another organization. But the Chicago native is comfortable with Oliveira as his foe, especially with things still shaking out at the top of the lightweight division.
Nurmagomedov is facing Johnson now and Tony Ferguson is meeting former champ Rafael dos Anjos in November. Of course, Eddie Alvarez is defending the lightweight title against Conor McGregor at UFC 205. Brooks is not far behind.
"I'm like screw it, man," Brooks said. "While they try to get all this figured out, who's the No. 1 contender, I might as well just go ahead and make some money along the way and stack my chips until it's my opportunity to get a title shot."