If you weren't paying close attention to the most recent episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck, then Jonathan Brookins may well have made you wonder if you were watching a rerun.
After defeating Sevak Magakian in the preliminary round with a rear naked choke—set up by a lateral drop—the quiet, contemplative Brookins used a nearly identical approach this past week in his quarterfinal against Sako Chivitchian, defeating the second half of Team Koscheck's Armenian duo the same way he vanquished the first.
Now one fight away from the finals, Brookins took time late last week to speak to UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report.
Before we get going on your fight from this week, there was something I was wondering about from last week's episode. Guys were talking about whether or not Stevens should have gotten the spot in the Wild Card, and you said something about a cucumber and a pickle, and it wasn't entirely clear. What were you trying to say?
Some of us are big fans of Dave Chappelle, and once upon time, he was on trial for something and they were questioning him, and no one could understand what he was saying except that "some people like the cucumber better pickled."
When he said it, everybody was confused. It was one of those things you say to kind of confuse people, but if you think about it, you either like the cucumber or you like the pickle. Some people like what they like. You never know what people like, and that's kind of what I was going for. They made the decision they made, and you don't know why.
So then, going ahead to this week, then, some people like messing around in the house in front of the pool table—Marc Stevens dancing around with the giant gloves, and you and Nam Phan seemed to have your own thing going, just hanging out under the tree in the yard.
Yeah. I used to kind of go back to that little spot way back there, my little haven in the house. I always kind of look for places where I can be on my own, no matter where I am, I always look for a place that I can go and be by myself. It's one of those things that I do. I remember when I was staying at Greg Jackson's, I had a really good spot there where I could go by myself.
I just kind of keep that space. There [in the house], I had to be way out in the corner of the yard, because everybody was so packed together. That spot was kind of separated, so I got back there, and no one would bother me. Nam wouldn't bother me, but he would come out and visit and talk to me. There were other people out there at various times, just kind of sitting by themselves.
Nam, it was very enjoyable when he would come out and chat with me. I enjoyed Nam's company, and me and Nam actually got pretty close.
Then you got matched up with Sako, and the week before, we had seen people brought in to tell Dana and the coaches whom they wanted to fight. I don't think we saw you. Whom did you ask to fight?
I guess I don't even remember. I guess since they didn't show me, I did something I get to take to my grave. I'm lucky that way.
Did you expect that you were going to get matched up with Sako in that round?
I actually did choose Sako. That was actually my choice. I was very pleased with that one.
Why was that your choice? You said you expected him to come after you hard after you just beat his friend. Did you expect that you could get Sako the same way because he and Sevak are from the same camp and all that? What was going into that pick?
I didn't expect at all to be able to do that, but I did think that Sako was a little less experienced than I was. I knew that he was undefeated, and undefeated with five fights, I think it's a very vulnerable spot.
That would have been in my head. I remember being young in the career, four or five and zero, having never lost, and I felt like I had a very good opportunity to go against that particular spot in someone's career.
And as far as the tactics, you had said that you didn't expect to be able to do the same thing. Did you think about changing your game plan? Did you plan to do something different going into that fight?
It was nice because when I was preparing for Sevak, before Marc Stevens fought Cody, I was preparing for Sako or Sevak, and having prepared so hard for either-or, it just made sense to just go ahead and fight the other one.
When we talked about the fight with Sevak, you said that going for that big throw like that, the lateral drop, against somebody who has as much judo experience as Sevak wouldn't have worked if he expected it. Did you think that Sako was expecting it, or did you think that he was thinking, "No way is he going to try the same thing twice?"
I feel like it only worked because he didn't expect it. I think that he definitely thought, "Well, he got away with it once, but he's not going to get away with it again," and the element of not expecting it, that's not going to happen again.
I think it was Cage Potato, when they recapped that episode, they put up an image of you getting that lateral drop on Jose Aldo when you fought him in the WEC. That's one of those things that a lot of people have been talking about during the season. When you're name comes up, people often mention that you fought Jose Aldo and had a good fight with him.
On one of the Aftermaths, Koscheck was saying that he said to "Crazy" Bob Cook, "Why didn't you say he was the guy who fought Jose Aldo?" Certainly, a lot of fans have mentioned that fight. Does it bother you at all to be known for that fight, a fight you lost? Certainly, there's no shame in losing to Jose Aldo, but so many people associate you with this fight, as opposed to anything else that you've done?
It's not the most annoying thing that's ever happened. It's probably starting to get annoying for him, though. When my name comes up a lot, it's "Why the heck do people keep talking about this kid that I already beat?" If I were him, I'd be pretty annoyed. I've got to make sure that I do my part to make sure I'm worth the rematch, because that's getting annoying, I'm sure. There's bigger fish to fry, which is cool.
It's just how the game works. Anytime you beat somebody, you never think that they deserve a rematch. You just go on about your business. If you really want to make yourself work and come back at the other end, it's going to take a lot of work.
You've got to really dig deep to climb up that ladder, man. Anytime you get knocked off the ladder, you fall a long way, not just a couple of rungs. He knocked me down the ladder, and he climbed very, very far up. It's an absolute goal of mine to make sure that I climb that ladder and make myself very much a presence in the sport.
You mention trying to get to a rematch with him. You don't seem like a person who puts a personal thing - "I want to beat this guy because I don't like him" - on his fights. Is it just about that level that Jose's at now and trying to get to it? What drives the desire to get to the point where you could have a rematch with him down the line?
It's just a major respect thing. It just comes down to major, major respect. That's my goal within the sport. I want to earn people's respect. I know that there might be a slight bit of respect from Jose Aldo to me, but not much, because he doesn't need to have any. He doesn't have to know me from a can of paint, you know?
I don't expect Jose Aldo to have any feelings towards me. In his position, I really wouldn't. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt from the fight and moved on. For me, it's a matter of, "You will respect me, man." I've had a couple of decision losses, and I earned my respect in other ways. I never got a chance to fight those people again, but our paths crossed, and now one of them comes and trains at our school all the time.
He's from Ireland, and he's a great, great friend of mine. It's a mutual appreciation and respect. In that situation, it's just a matter of me making sure that I get back to that position, the position that he's at. It's a respect thing for me. It's an honor thing. I think he can appreciate that.