When Cagewriter spoke with Bellator lightweight tournament winner and number one division contender Will Brooks late last week, the American Top Team fighter was readying for a tune-up bout against May 17th. Later on that same pay per view card, lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez and former title-holder Michael Chandler were set to fight in a championship rubber match.
Brooks told us that, win or lose, he was contracted to face the winner of that title contest for the Bellator 155 pound belt at a later date. Now, most fighters are more than capable of analyzing prospective opponents and assessing how well they themselves would match up against them.
However, fighters also need the inner confidence to believe that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter who they face because they can take on anyone. Accordingly, it is rare to hear a top contender openly admit that they’d rather a specific fighter become champion because they’d rather fight that person.
So, when we asked Brooks if he had a preference in fighting Alvarez or Chandler, we were surprised at the Illinois native’s reply. “I know that everyone always says that it doesn't matter who they fight, but the answer is, yes. I personally have nothing against the other guy but I would like to fight Chandler,” Brooks admitted.
Of course, soon after our conversation with Brooks, he got his wish, and sooner than he expected. Alvarez pulled out of the trilogy bout with Chandler because he suffered a concussion in training camp.
Now, Brooks will face Chandler in an interim title fight on Bellator’s first ever pay per view card Saturday night. Brooks explained to us that it wasn’t animosity towards Chandler or Alvarez that informed his preference.
Nor was it that he felt Chandler would be a more favorable matchup. In fact, a growing resentment at his promotion Bellator seemed to be the reason for Brooks wanting to fight Chandler.
“I think I have everything it takes to beat Chandler. I really want to create some change. Bellator does a good job of promoting a handful of guys, a handful of favorites,” Brooks began.
“Chandler has been a poster boy for them and one of the favorites. They also have Pat Curran and they bring in some Russians. I'm kind of fed up with it. I feel like when Alvarez won the belt, he wasn't pumped up like they pumped up Chandler. When [Daniel] Straus won [the Bellator featherweight title], they were kinda sketchy with him. I want to create change and to do that I have to beat up Chandler to show [Bellator] that they can't do this. They can't be sitting around promoting three or four or five guys. They've got to change their mindset.
“So, I'd like to beat up on their poster boy. I could fight Alvarez and nobody is going to make a big deal about it. We all saw it. When Alvarez beat Chandler, [Bellator CEO] Bjorn Rebney was shaking his head. It wasn't because he didn't agree with the decision. I mean, a lot of people didn't agree with the decision, but at same time, [Rebney] don't like Alvarez. Some things need to be shaken up.”
Brooks has good reason to believe that Bellator and its CEO Rebney may not be on the best of terms with Alvarez after a lengthy and ugly legal battle with the champion. It was also strange that Straus was immediately matched up against Curran again after soundly beating him, even as a discontented featherweight tournament winner impatiently sat and waited in the wings.
Given Brooks’ examples of Bellator promotional favoritism, we asked the African-American challenger if he thought the organization was less than comfortable promoting black or brown fighters , or ones with Latin surnames over white stars like Curran or Chandler. Brooks believes that perceived race or color isn’t an issue with Bellator, but fighter complicity and passivity is.
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Brooks responded when asked whether he felt Bellator took race, color or ethnicity into account when deciding who to promote more heavily.
“There's a certain look to those guys and those guys also don't say too much. When was the last time Chandler said anything? He hasn't even really promoted fight the fight with Alvarez. That goes for any organization - They like guys they can point in the right direction and tell, 'go do this.' I think Chandler is one of those guys. He's not going to go against the grain and say anything that might put him in a little bit of trouble. He's so focused on being this guy, Mr. Perfect. Same with Pat Curran. I've got nothing against either guy. Both are just quiet guys. And, everybody is good at working with the quiet guys...It's time for change. I'm over it. I think a lot of the fans are over it. It just doesn’t look good to me when you don't promote these guys the way they promoted others.”
It may have seemed a bit strange to hear Brooks go on about these matters before he was even in a title fight but now that he has a short-notice one coming up this week, his comments certainly add an interesting couple of angles to the prospect of him becoming Bellator champ. The fighter seems convinced that he won’t just be fighting Chandler in the cage Saturday night, but his own promoter as well, and for long after a possible win.
Chandler himself poses enough to think about in an opponent, given all his skill and ability. Will Brooks is confident he can beat the man, however.
And, after he does, he’s intent on making sure he gets proper recognition for having done so. “When Chandler won, his face was on everything. When Straus won the belt, nobody even knew he had the belt. When Alvarez won, nobody said a word about Alvarez having a belt. I'm kinda just frustrated,” Brooks concluded.
“With this opportunity, I'm not going to allow them to short-change me. When I win the belt, I think I'll deserve to be promoted the way they promote other guys and I'm going to make sure they do.”