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Will Brooks on signing with UFC: 'I broke down and cried'

One of the best lightweights in the world is coming to the UFC as Will Brooks will make his UFC debut against Ross Pearson at The Ultimate Fighter 23 finale on July 8 in Las Vegas.

Lightweight Will Brooks will make his UFC debut on July 8 in Las Vegas (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)It’s an interesting turn of events after Bellator severed ties with their lightweight champion after Brooks (17-1) and president Scott Coker just couldn’t see eye to eye. Brooks was critical of his former employer on social media and Bellator responded by handing him his walking papers.

But there’s a rainbow on the other side of those clouds for Brooks, as he’ll get to fulfill his dream of competing in the UFC.

“This is an emotional rollercoaster,” Brooks told Yahoo Sports about the deal that came together in less than 24 hours. “I broke down and cried. There’s excitement, nervousness, fear, happiness – everything at once. It’s a beautiful thing to be in this position.”

The signing comes at a time when Brooks had some significant happenings in his personal life. The 29-year-old recently became a father with the birth of his daughter and he was also in the midst of planning a wedding, which happens to be a week and a half after his UFC debut.

“It’s so crazy,” Brooks said about trying to plan a wedding and be a father to a 3-month old while having the biggest moment in his MMA career right around the corner. “I am built for this kind of controlled chaos. I’ve been waiting for this moment. The timing means nothing. I’m always ready to go. This is just how it’s supposed to be.”

Free agency has been a hot topic in mixed martial arts as of late. With the much-maligned deal with Reebok taking away sponsorship money from fighters, several UFC competitors have defected to Bellator including Matt Mitrione, Josh Thomson, Josh Koscheck and former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. But, for Brooks, coming to the UFC was always tops on his list. Although he wouldn’t go into great detail about his new contract, he made it clear that the money didn’t matter.

“It was never about the money,” Brooks said. “Of course everybody talks about money in the world of mixed martial arts because this is how we make a living. But this was about setting a goal for myself and attacking it. It was more of a point that I was trying to prove. It may have been a dumb point when it comes to my finances and my career but you have to take risks. I rolled the dice and bet on me because I have what it takes to rise above.”

It’s a unique way to land in this position. Brooks has been nothing short of impressive during his Bellator run. He owns a pair of victories over Michael Chandler, who was considered the face of the promotion at one time after choking out current UFC title contender Eddie Alvarez. His second victory over Chandler earned him the vacant lightweight title and he defended it twice in dominant fashion. Last month it came as a surprise to many that Bellator parted ways with their current champion. But Brooks was very vocal about testing free agency and rejected a contract Bellator offered him. If he had to do it all again, Brooks may not take back everything he said, but he admits he would have handled things differently.

“I think I did a poor job being professional,” Brooks said about his numerous outbursts on social media criticizing the handling of Bellator fighters. “I acted off of impulse. Twitter does that to you. It helps you react quickly and me being a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve. But I could have went about doing things differently.”

Brooks is aware that the UFC doesn’t tolerate such things and says that he’s evolving as both a fighter and individual. But with everything behind him, Brooks will now focus on the rugged Pearson, who has alternated wins and losses in his past eight fights. Although Pearson isn’t ranked, Brooks isn’t looking at this as an easy debut.

“You can’t underestimate a guy like Pearson,” Brooks said, who revealed that he’s already been training so he’ll be well prepared come July. “But I also won’t overestimate him. I still believe I’ll go out there and he’ll present the opportunity for me to put him down. What I came here for is a gold belt to add to my collection and I need to go out there and show the lightweight division that they have a problem on their hands.”


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