By Elias Cepeda
It's March 16, a few weeks before his April 8 showdown against Charles Oliveira at UFC 210 in Buffalo, New York, but Will Brooks feels like he could fight right now. Earlier in the day Brooks had tweeted out "Bored of this training camp. #readytofight."
Later, during a break in the lightweight contender's Florida training camp at American Top Team, Brooks (18-2) is open about not being in love with having to wait any more days to step back into the Octagon.
"There always comes a week in training camp when you're just over it," the former Bellator champion explains. "You're bored with it. You do the same times of things every day, follow the same routine."
There is eventually a sameness to each day for fighters during their training camps. For an elite pro like "Ill Will," who trains for 12 full weeks in preparation for contests, that monotony can become just the right amount of irritating.
"It does get monotonous after awhile, and there always comes a time, before the fight, when you feel you're ready to fight," Brooks says. "I'm there, now. My body feels right, my mind is right -- I want to get in there, now. Luckily, my team knows me, and they understand so they give me time when I need it during weeks like this. They know that next week I'll be back on and in it, and things will pick up, again."
Brooks actually has had a good deal of newness in his life, lately. The 30-year-old Chicago-area native went back home in 2016 to get married, then enjoyed a honeymoon and is now living the good life as a husband.
"Married life is really good, man," he beams.
"We did the traditional thing of getting married and then flying out the next day for a honeymoon. I was able to get a fight in with the UFC, get married, go on a honeymoon, and have plenty of time to get ready for another fight, so I've been very lucky."
Getting better every day.— Will Brooks (@ILLxWillBrooks) March 8, 2017
On the other hand, Brooks also had to deal with something new that was entirely unwelcome -- a loss in the cage.
Over the course of his six-year professional MMA career, Brooks has rarely lost. In fact, heading into his fight against Alex Oliveira last October, it had only happened once before -- in 2013, against Saad Awad via KO.
Despite now once more being in the relatively unfamiliar position of coming back after a loss, Brooks insists that this upcoming bout is like any other.
"It never really matters to me who I'm fighting," he says. "I try to look at all fights the same. ... Obviously my coaches watch tape and they prepare me specifically for certain things, but none of that plays out in my mind too much leading up to a fight."
Brooks rightly sees himself as a winner and championship-caliber fighter, but he says that he's never ignored the realities of competition. Some athletes who are used to winning all the time struggle mightily when they suffer a rare defeat. Their world and identity, having largely been built around a notion of invincibility, get shaken, and they can find it difficult to ever get out of their own heads and return to peak form.
However, Brooks has been able to steer clear of a similar mental collapse.
"I've competed my whole life and lost before, even though I haven't lost that much in MMA," the former wrestler says.
"I believe in myself and think that no one in the world can beat me when I fight my best. At the same time, I'm aware of the nature of what it is we're doing. We're fighting. We're competing. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. I always believe I should win, but if I lose, it isn't outside of the realm of what is possible in the world. If the fighting gods smile down on me any given night I may win. If not, I could lose."
Brooks believes that mindset has helped him avoid back-to-back losses so far in his career. After losing, he doesn't assume everything is broken and that he needs to completely remake himself.
"Some people when they lose, that's when they assume that they need to change everything or try to be something they are not," Brooks says. "When you try to go outside of yourself, outside of what makes you who you are, that could be when you really fall off and lose a lot of fights in a row."