June 17, 2016

'Ill' Will Brooks Has the Potential To Make the UFC Lightweight Division Sick

By Raphael Garcia

On Wednesday afternoon, news broke that former Bellator MMA lightweight champion Will Brooks joined the UFC lightweight division. This is a key signing for the promotion, as the American Top Team fighter creates an interesting wrinkle in the deepest division within the sport of mixed martial arts.

Brooks’s first appearance is already set in stone, as Ross Pearson will welcome him into the Octagon at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale on July 8. This is a big moment for Brooks, who was sitting idle on the Bellator roster until Bellator decided to release him last month. That move jump-started speculation that he would end up signing with UFC, and on Wednesday it became official. This move is a beneficial one for all the parties involved.

In Brooks, the UFC has signed an individual that has the potential to be a Top 10 competitor. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of Hector Lombard, Eddie Alvarez, and Zack Makovsky, all former Bellator champions who have reached top ten status within their respective divisions. A victory over Pearson would create the opportunity for a number of interesting fights; Al Iaquinta, Evan Dunham, and even Michael Chiesa would make for intriguing next opponents. Brooks even had a back and forth on social media with Alvarez, which could be used to promote a fight between the two former Bellator champions at some point.

Some may question the validity of Brooks’s 17-1 record, as he hasn’t faced many of the biggest names in the sport. However, what he has done is continue to defeat the men that were placed in front of him, and do so in dominating fashion. Those performances accompany his understanding of fight promotion, which is an ability that the UFC continues to cultivate in its roster.

During his Bellator tenure, Brooks continued to call for an opportunity to headline a major card. Even though his defense against Ryan Jansen at Bellator 136 was the show’s main event, this event wasn’t promoted to the same degree as the fight cards headlined by Tito Ortiz, Kimbo Slice, or Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. That lack of promotion is what fueled Brooks’s public disputes with the Viacom-owned company. His release in May came at a perfect time in his career, when his value was at its greatest point.

"It worked out for me, because I deserved it," Brooks said in an interview with Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting. “The Will Brooks business is always good. For them to buy in has just been amazing. I'm just ready to get to work and prove to them what I have and what I can do."

MMA free agency has one of the top stories to follow this year. Many equate that story to fighters leaving Zuffa employ, but it also encompasses the signings that the UFC makes from other organizations. Will Brooks is a big signing that creates intriguing matchup possibilities and strengthens the promotional power of one of the most exciting divisions in the sport.

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