Bellator 145: "Vengeance," which takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Nov. 6, 2015) inside Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., will feature two title fights and three grudge matches on the Spike TV main card.
One of those title fights will include Lightweight champion Will Brooks, who will look to defend his 155-pound title against leg lock wizard, Marcin Held.
Brooks has proven his grit and toughness, going to the championship rounds in three straight title fights, including his most recent win over Dave Jansen at Bellator 136. Despite this success, Brooks feels he's been overlooked and pushed aside as new talent arrives in Bellator MMA.
He'll have little time for such concerns, however, with Marcin Held on the horizon. Held has compiled six straight wins, including a Bellator Lightweight tournament, during which he made "Tiger" Sarnavskiy scream in pain as he submitted to a kneebar at Bellator 136.
Brooks recently spoke with MMAmania.com about facing Held in the Bellator 145 co-main event and how excited he is that American Top Team (ATT) teammate and friend, Daniel Straus, challenges Patricio Freire for the Featherweight title in the main event.
"I'm super excited for it man! I think this is a great opportunity. I think when you have teammates on the same card who are competing for pretty much the same thing -- I'm defending my title and he's trying to get his title back -- it's just an exciting thing. You get that positive energy and we're both feeding off of each other and we're able to keep each other in a really positive place throughout the training camp."
Held is as tough and dangerous as any challenger Brooks has faced, but he has the confidence of a champion going into the fight. Brooks may even discount Held's improving stand up a bit too much.
"I think he's a very talented guy as far as jiu-jitsu goes in leg locks and knee bars, but overall, I don't see him being a real threat to me in any other aspect. He's a pretty one-dimensional fighter, so it just comes down to me going out there and being who I am, and that's a well-rounded athletic explosive powerful fighter."
Dismissive or not, it's hard to argue with the 16-1 record he brings to the table, including the fact he's never been submitted in a fight. After three straight fights going to the fourth round or later, Brooks has confidence in his cardio, too.
"I know a lot of the fans like the finishes, I like to go out there and look for the finishes, but I have to be prepared for every aspect of mixed martial arts and that goes all the way down to competing in five round fights. You know, being able to go-and-go-and-go-and-go -- that's something that you have to be ready to do, not just be ready for a guy who has good grappling or good jiu-jitsu."
Former division champion, Michael Chandler, has accused Brooks of lacking focus as a champion because of his grumbling about who gets the Bellator spotlight. Brooks seems to think that's just a case of sour grapes.
"My thoughts aren't on Michael Chandler. I beat that guy twice, and every time (I won) you can see there's a clear progression. The first time it was a close fight, the second time it was clear as day and decisive, I finished him. I made him look bad, I made him look amateurish. He couldn't even take me down. He didn't land any strikes really, and it's only going to get worse. I know what he is, I know what he's capable of, and it's too late for him."
Brooks also dismisses the notion that he shouldn't have an opinion about his spot in the promotion, while simultaneously defending the Lightweight title.
"It does not change the fact that I'm on a seven-fight win streak, I'm 2-0 against Chandler, and it doesn't change anything. The thing that people don't recognize is the fact that I've been able to voice my opinion on things and I still go out there and I take care of business at the end of the day. That's what it's all about."
If it's any indication of his confidence and swagger, Brooks was a fan of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair growing up, and as the old saying goes, "to be the man, you have to beat the man."
"I think it's just how you have to operate in this sport. This is a brutal sport. You can't operate in this sport and be quiet and soft spoken and afraid to be who you want to be. It's one of those things where you have to completely be sold out to who you are. I'm just learning who I am as a person, and I'm able to put that on display for people, you know?"
Brooks is definitely not "quiet" or "soft spoken." His words may, in fact, draw the ire of Held going into the title fight, and he shows little -- if any -- concern about giving his opponent motivating bulletin board material.
"I don't believe he wants to punch and kick and elbow. I don't think he really wants to fight. From the videos that I've seen he's not a fighter, man, he's a jiu-jitsu guy, he's a grappler. I've seen a guy who would rather be going and competing in NAGA tournaments if they paid money, you know? That's what I think he is."
We'll find out what kind of fighters both men are tomorrow night.
Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.