#UFC 218 #Conor McGregor #Francis Ngannou #Alistair Overeem #UFC 217 #Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux #GSP #Stipe Miocic #Max Holloway

SYDNEY – It took some soul-searching and some important conversations, but Will Brooks is ready to get back on track.

Brooks came into the UFC with some excitement behind him. After all, he’d not only conquered but also defended Bellator’s lightweight crown two times before the promotion granted him a contract release. When Brooks vacated that belt and entered the UFC, he was on a nine-fight winning streak.

Brooks’ UFC debut went fine, with a unanimous-decision win over Ross Pearson. But it was downhill from there. A match with an overweight Alex Oliveira ended in a TKO loss and a damaged rib. Then came Charles Oliveira and, with him, a first-round submission setback.

As he prepares to meet Nik Lentz (27-8-2 MMA, 11-5-1 UFC) at this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 121, Brooks (18-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) rides the first losing skid of career.

For some fighters, consecutive losses can be traced back to personal turbulence. In Brooks’ case, though, it wasn’t that things were going bad – they were going a little too well.

“Everything I’ve done in this sport has been motivated off of being bitter, upset,” Brooks told MMAjunkie, “and having a chip on my shoulder and being angry all the time. That kind of motivated me to where I needed to go. It was kind of like me against everybody else.

“So once I got my wife, my daughter, my house, money in the bank to pay my mortgage, pay my bills, I’m like, ‘This is everything I wanted.’ I didn’t know how to be comfortable being happy in a way.”

His past few camps, Brooks admits, were lacking fire and passion. Not because he was “bored” with the sport, he clarifies.

“I just put all of my energy into trying to lay the groundwork to be the best father and husband that I could be,” Brooks said.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being focused on your loved ones, its takes some selfishness to be a high-level athlete. Finding the balance between family man and keeping the fire alive as a fighter, Brooks said, was the real struggle.

“I had to step back and really look at the whole picture,” Brooks said. “Sit down with my coaches and really ask them questions. See how they felt about some of the things that I was doing. There were days I was skipping practice to stay at home with the baby and things like that, when I should have made different arrangements.”

It took talking to his coaches, to his family and to those close to him for Brooks to get back to where he needed to be. And he singles out a specific piece of advice from Bellator stand-out Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, who opened his eyes to the fact that it didn’t have to be Brooks against the world – it could be Brooks and his loved ones facing it all together, instead.

“That makes sense, because when you take two losses in a row, that does hurt your bank account,” Brooks said. “You start looking around, you’re like, ‘Man, everything I built, this might not sustain itself if I don’t do the things I need to do.’

“So I’m motivated, I’m focused, I’m locked in. I think I found that fire in myself again.”

Brooks will get his chance to prove that in the re-booked meeting with Lentz at UFC Fight Night 121. The lightweight bout takes place Sunday (but airs live on Saturday in North America due to the time difference) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

As for how the bout will unfold?

“I’m going to finish him in the second round,” Brooks said.

For more on UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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