Q&A: Will Brooks slept in cars and bookshops to realise MMA dream

Having suffered back-to-back defeats to Alex and Charles Oliveira (no relation), Will Brooks is in desperate need of a win when he goes up against Nik Lentz on October 7 at UFC 216.

Ahead of the crunch battle with Lentz, the Chicago-born lightweight answered the questions of Fighters Only contributor Tony Reid.


Question: If you could choose one fight from your career that every MMA fan should see, which fight would you choose and why?

Will Brooks: It was the Michael Chandler fight, for sure. That was a great fight for me. I got to go out there and express who I am as a person and who I am as a fighter for the fans. I put on a great show against a high level competitor. We went out there, we went to war and had a dog fight and put on a show for the fans. I had a coming out party as far as my personality goes and what I bring to the cage. It also allowed me to progress as far as my skill-set. I was really excited about that.

Q: You touched on your personality there. You are one of my favorite follows on Twitter because of that personality, your strong opinions and brutal honesty. Do you see yourself as a leader as far as taking MMA to the next level in terms of fighter pay and rights?

WB: That is what I have been trying to do. I have been trying to step up and not just be one of the guys that’s holding the belt or just fighting. I want to be the face of the organization. I want to be the face for the fans, for the fighters. In order to make change in anything in life someone has to be the one to step up and not be afraid to open their mouth and state their opinion and do it in an intelligent way. That’s what I have been trying to do. I do it pretty well but sometimes I get carried away with some of the things I have said. I am trying to be a leader in this sport and not just another guy. I’m excited to get the opportunity to do that. I am getting coached along the way as I am still learning how to carry myself in this MMA world in a professional manner. This is a very exciting time for me. I am trying to be the mayor of mixed martial arts. I want to bring something different to the people.

Q: There you go… ‘The Mayor’ Will Brooks.

WB: Yeah, I like that! I might have to start using that.

Q: You have stated you would rather be a stand up, honest man and get blackballed for stating your opinion because your life doesn’t revolve around MMA…

WB: When this sport started it was just a bunch of regular guys competing. People loved that. As Americans, we love organized violence. That’s just the honest truth. That’s what people like to see. I have been trying to bring it back to the natural pureness of the sport. I want to speak out and not just stay in my lane. I think the Diaz brothers do a great job with it but they could do it in a more professional manner, without all the vulgarity – being so aggressive to the point where they hurt themselves, the fans and the sport. That’s who they are; that’s them. I appreciate that. I think most fighters want to be themselves and not have to censor themselves to attract sponsors and organizations to the point where they become robotic.

Q: Fans watch you fight on SPIKE TV with Bellator and now on FOX or FS1 with the UFC and think you’ve ‘made it’, but they may not be aware of the sacrifice it took to get there. There was a time when you were sleeping in your car. You even slept at an abandoned book store for some time. Can you talk about all the obstacles you overcame?

WB: I am the type of person who has always been willing to do whatever it takes to get to where I want to go. Those were some very hard times. I had a 1998 Dodge Avenger and I was sleeping in that thing just to stay close to the gym. When I was sleeping in my car I needed reading material because there were nights I wasn’t actually sleeping. I went and got BJ Penn’s book of techniques and I was reading it, thinking about how much I wanted to be just like him when I really got into MMA. I went in a different direction with my skills but he was one of the guys I wanted to be able to learn from and just be around, even to just shake his hand.

Some nights I was sleeping in the gym without my coaches knowing. These are the things I decided I needed to do; I wanted to do to get to where I wanted to go. At the time my family had given up on me. I had a lot of dirt under my nails. Nobody wanted to deal with it. Everybody was sick of me breaking and wrecking everything. I just wasn’t a great person to be around at the time. I needed to make some changes in my life. When no one is around you do what you need to do to make it. I had a few problems and I was able to battle through them.

One night I got so desperate I had locked myself out of my car and had to find a place to sleep. I was walking by a Barnes and Noble bookstore, they were closing the store down, it was freezing cold, I had no cell phone to call anyone, and I had no money. I pulled the door open and slept in there. I was doing everything I possibly could do become great, to do this interview with you, to compete against guys I’ve competed against. I did some things that I don’t want to get into but I’m still trying to wash it off my hands. You have to endure. You have to do it on your own.

I didn’t want to turn around and ask everyone for help. When the help isn’t there to be found, you dig deep. That’s what I’m trying to share with the fans. I want people to know what I’ve been through and realise you can overcome when you just bite down and you just don’t take it; you don’t take some of the negative things that happen to us. It’s going to hurt for a little bit but you have to believe that, at the end of the day, something positive will come from all the pain, the heartache, the sadness, the sacrifice and hard work. Everything I have now came from hard work.

Q: Who are the people that inspire you most, personally and professionally?

WB: Guys like Robbie Lawler, Dustin Poirier, and all the other guys at our gym (American Top Team). We have a gym full of monsters. They all bring their own unique approach, their own work ethic; the way they think, the way they see the sport. The coaching staff as well. I look up to these guys. I can learn so much about the sport and learn so much as a person from these guys. I am inspired by anybody that brings something positive to the table. To talk about someone outside our gym I would say Georges St-Pierre. The way he has carried himself and the way he has built his legacy, his persona, the professional manner in which he carries himself, is amazing. I really look up to him as far as his approach to the sport. He was always trying to find different ways to get better. He started doing gymnastics later on. He went outside of MMA to get better, in gymnastics, in boxing with Freddie Roach, etc.