His best-known fight is most likely his loss to Jose Aldo, but this season on The Ultimate Fighter: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck, Jonathan Brookins has left no doubt that he’s a winner.
The quiet, introspective lightweight with the nasty lateral drop was the first fighter to secure a spot in the finals on Wednesday night’s two-hour semifinal episode, and will face Michael “The Menace” Johnson on Saturday at the LIVE season finale (9 PM/8 Central on Spike).
With his win over Team GSP compatriot and HIT Squad jiu-jitsu coach Kyle Watson in the books, Brookins took time on Wednesday to speak with UltimateFighter.com and Bleacher Report.
Just for starters, it’s the week of the finale. After all the time you spent on the show, and all the time since you’ve been home, it’s almost here. What’s starting to build up for you?
Not much, really. It’s cool to be back in Vegas. It’s kind of fun to be back in the media scene, how the UFC does it, puts all that stuff on you, so that’s kind of fun. I’m just enjoying a little break from the mundane. It’s all kind of cool.
How hard has it been to keep stuff from your family? Obviously, you need to be able to tell them in time for them to make plans to travel to Vegas…
I have a couple of family members coming out, but they don’t know the outcome. I told them that all the quarterfinalists will be able to fight in the finale.
Then, looking back at the episode, let’s talk a little bit about the fight with Kyle. Both of you guys had been finishing off your opponents pretty quickly all the way through. Was it tough to settle in for a longer fight after you had the two first-round finishes with Sevak and Sako?
I think we were well prepared. Maybe the fact that we had two quick matches helped us a little bit, being able to go in an endurance-type match, because we weren’t so beat up. We knew it was the last little bit we had to lay out on the line. It definitely didn’t shock our bodies too much to have to go a little bit longer.
Obviously, Georges St-Pierre told you guys you were on your own in terms of picking your cornermen, and it was an interesting combination you had out there with you: Alex Caceres, Sako Chivitchian and Nam Phan. How’d you wind up out there with those guys?
That’s just kind of how it played out. Going into that, we had to pick our own cornermen. I didn’t really want to be the guy to go and be like, “Hey, will you be my cornerman?” So I kind of waited for people to volunteer themselves and say, “Hey, I’ll be in your corner for you.” I was happy that Alex stepped up first, because we’d kind of been friends, we’d known each other since before the show, and Sako said, “If you need my help, I’ll be there for you.” Nam was the same way. Me and Nam had gotten pretty close, just hanging in the house. When I had those three guys, it really meant a lot to me, especially Sako and Nam. Bruce had been my buddy and stuff, so I kinda expected him to be there, but for Sako to step up really meant a lot. Sako was one of the more motivated, encouraging guys. I really have to thank him a lot for the help.
That’s interesting, because you had beaten him, and I know Jeff Lentz had been in Alex’s corner, but it had to be weird for some of those guys to go into the corner of someone who had beaten them.
I think it shows a lot of maturity to be able to be like, “Hey, we had a good competition, good competing with you, and I know we’ll remain friends; competition was all it was, and now I want the best for you.” Likewise, I would have been the same way for Sako.
You mention being friends with Alex before the show. That was something that hadn’t really come out, you having known Alex before. Were you surprised at the fact that he became a controversial figure in the house before he fought Michael Johnson?
I knew that he was young, All of us coming from different areas, it’s hard to get to know somebody, it’s tough to gauge him. I could kind of see that his immaturity, the way he jokes around, might get under other people’s skin, but for me, I already knew all that stuff about him, so it didn’t bother me too much. I wasn’t surprised. From the first day, I could tell that his comments were going to rile people up, just his way of being. But he enjoyed himself, and we’re still friends.
You cornered Alex for his fight against Michael. Having cornered a fight against Michael and helped somebody else see where there were weaknesses and opportunities, were there things that you learned that you think you’re going to be able to use on Saturday?
Nah, not really. Everything that I was trying to tell him, it was too hard for him to use. There won’t be any big effect.
Last thing I wanted to ask you, and we talked a little bit about this before, is about how when Josh Koscheck was on The Aftermath, he said something about being mad at “Crazy” Bob Cook for not telling him that you had fought Jose Aldo when they were doing team selection, and that he would have picked you. Looking back on the way things worked on the show, and what happened with Team Koscheck, do you think you could be in this position just the same, fighting for the six-figure contract on Saturday, if Koscheck had known about that fight and taken you like he said he would have?
I truly do. I feel like I would have been able to make it to the same position, but I wouldn’t have progressed in life. I feel like the lessons that I learned from being on my team were so much more than just the competition. They’re going to assist me in life for a long, long, long period of time. They were very substantial lessons. I definitely wouldn’t trade one for the other—“Oh, either or would have worked out fine”—I could have worked my way here, but the lessons that are going to last the longest came from the team that I was on.