Will Brooks was supposed to be a UFC champion, but the American Top Team product’s tenure in the Octagon was anything but. After signing a big free agent deal with the UFC after defeating Michael Chandler to win the Bellator lightweight championship and defending his belt twice there, much was expected of Brooks inside the Octagon. And for good reason, as he went 9-1 overall in Bellator, including two wins over Chandler that saw the MMA world take notice of “Ill Will.”
Things started off well enough for Brooks in the Octagon as he defeated former TUF winner Ross Pearson in his UFC debut. It was a hard-fought decision, but Brooks got the job done. In his second UFC fight, the promotion matched him up against Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. Brooks was expected to win this fight as well, but things got dicey when Oliveira came in heavy at 161.5lbs. Brooks took the fight anyways, but it turned out to be a bad decision as Oliveira dwarfed Brooks in the cage, took him to deep waters, and then finished Brook via third-round TKO stoppage. The decision to take the fight is probably something that Brooks regrets.
The fact Oliveira missed weight so badly gave Brooks a bit of a mulligan for the Oliveira fight, and once again Brooks was favored to beat his next opponent Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira. Once again, though, a Brazilian with the Oliveira last name had Brooks’ number as Oliveira was able to catch Brooks in a standing rear-naked choke and finish him in the first round. It was a disappointing loss for Brooks and put him in a must-win situation for his next fight. The UFC then booked Brooks against Nik Lentz in another fight he was expected to win, but once again Brooks disappointed as he was choked out by Lentz in the second round. Though Lentz is a crafty veteran, losing to him in that kind of fashion was rough, and three-straight losses and a 1-3 record overall in the UFC led to Brooks being cut.
Brooks didn’t sit around long on the free-agent market, though, as the Pro Fighters League snatched him up quickly and signed him to be a part of its first lightweight tournament for one million dollars. He might not have the guaranteed big purse that he had in the UFC, but if Brooks can run the table in PFL he should be able to make more money than he ever would have in the UFC. Even though Brooks hasn’t even fought for PFL yet, it’s clear the promotion really likes him as it gave him a favorable matchup against WSOF vet Luiz Firmino in the first round, and Brooks will get a chance to main event PFL 2 in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
There’s no doubt Brooks was a huge disappointment in the UFC. He looked amazing in Bellator and for a period of time he was arguably one of the top-five lightweights in the world. But he badly underachieved once he got to the UFC, and it cost him his job with the world’s largest fighting organization. However, Brooks is still only 31 and has room to improve his overall game. A lot of fans and media have written him off after a poor showing in the Octagon, but you have to remember this is still a young fighter who can get better. He might not have lived up to expectations in the UFC, but with one million reasons to get back on track, he should be able to bounce back and impress fighting in the PFL. The organization is giving him every opportunity to succeed, and now it’s up to Brooks to go out there and do what he does best, and that’s win MMA fights.
Do you think Will Brooks can get back on track?