For any number of reasons, Will Brooks’s brief tenure with the UFC turned out to be a disappointing one, and he is putting the onus on one major factor: himself.
“I just didn’t get it done,” Brooks said Monday on The MMA Hour, when asked what he thought went wrong in his four UFC fights. “I let a lot of outside things get in the way and I just didn’t make the right adjustments and in adapting to different things that were taking place and that’s on me. I take full responsibility for that.
“At the end of the day, you could have all these coaches, you could have teammates, you could have whoever it is working in the background trying to get you on track and they’re working hard, but if you’re not focused and locked in to what you’re doing, especially in this sport, there’s no way that you’re going to have the success that you’re looking for. I wasn’t locked in, I wasn’t dedicated, it came back to bite me in the butt and I accept that.”
The 31-year-old Brooks recently announced that he had parted ways with the UFC and will continue his fighting career in the Professional Fighters League (formerly the World Series of Fighting). In four UFC appearances, “Ill Will” picked up just one victory. He defeated Ross Pearson by unanimous decision in his debut in July 2016, a performance that was relatively uninspiring given that Brooks was fresh off of a run as Bellator’s lightweight champion, which included back-to-back wins over Michael Chandler.
Brooks would go on to lose three straight after the Pearson fight, all by knockout or submission. Following his most recent loss to Nik Lentz at UFC Sydney last November, Brooks was prepared for bad news.
“The one thing that I try my best to do is recognize that this is a business,” Brooks said. “The UFC is a well-oiled machine, it doesn’t take very much for the UFC to cut me and keep moving so I had to keep that in mind. I’m 1-3, my fight against Ross Pearson wasn’t the most spectacular performance I’ve ever put on in my life. So you win that one and it was like, yeah, whatever, and then you go lose three in a row, you recognize what type of business the UFC is and you recognize, ‘Hey, I might be on the cut list.’ We have to be okay with that, you have to respect that and understand that we’re just cogs in the machine. They’re really good at taking one piece out and putting another piece in.
“The guys that are really heartbroken and emotionally invested in it, when they get released and they get pulled out of it, they don’t know how to bounce back because they didn’t recognize that we’re replaceable pieces. So if you can get comfortable with that idea, it’s a lot easier.”
There was little drama in Brooks’s transition from the UFC to the PFL as he explained that officials were accommodating when it came to figuring out what was next for him. The UFC was working to find him another fight, but also told him that he could pursue other offers and would be granted his release upon request.
The PFL is planning to make a splash in 2018 by putting on tournaments in which the winner will be rewarded with a $1,000,000 prize and Brooks and his team decided it was worth the risk. During his time with the UFC, Brooks became a husband and a father, and he has another child arriving soon, so he’s optimistic about winning a couple of tournaments with the PFL and securing his financial future.
“For the next two years, working with the PFL, I’m going to give them 180-percent of everything I’ve got to make sure that I go through this rebranding stage or I’m going through this rebirth myself and help them go through their rebranding and their rebirth and just do my best to be there as a professional,” Brooks said.
Moving forward, Brooks hopes to do a better job of balancing his family life with his professional life, and he already felt like he was turning the corner in that regard before the Lentz fight. Prior to his current three-fight slump, Brooks had compiled an 18-1 professional record and he doesn’t see why he can’t recapture that magic.
One thing you won’t catch Brooks doing is reminiscing about his Bellator glory days or writing off a return to the Octagon in the future.
“I don’t look back on it. I don’t regret anything,” Brooks said of the decision to go from Bellator to the UFC. “I saw an opportunity to go after a goal that I set for myself and I went for it. Did it work out the way I would like it to have worked out the first time around? No, but the UFC ain’t going nowhere. They ain’t going nowhere, so why be like, ‘Oh my God, it’s over with, oh no.’
“Look at guys like Robbie Lawler, look what he’s done. He stepped away from the UFC and took a few losses and went on his journey and came back evolved and became a champion in the UFC. So there’s a great amount of examples that can show people that just because you see the ending does not mean that that’s the ending. That’s the ending of that chapter, it’s not the ending of the book.”