Jonathan Brookins Enlightened, Ready For Featherweight Impact

Brookins Ultimate Fighter
TUF 12 winner back at featherweight, seeking relevance

The warrior spirit is a mixture of skill, ambition and the journey for something greater.

Few fighters embody this ideology better than Jonathan Brookins. The season 12 TUF winner is the antithesis of the ultra-aggressive stereotype that surrounds MMA. And while his demeanor outside of the cage is humble and quiet, his performances inside have been anything but.

Brookins defeated Michael Johnson to earn his UFC contract. But after his success on the show, Brookins fell into a series of injuries that led to canceled fights. Now, back to full health and in a new division, he faces rising prospect Erik Koch at UFC Fight Night 25 this weekend in New Orleans.

“The injury that happened before my last fight was the reason for the drop to 145 pounds. I had always kept it in mind that dropping down a weight class was something that I could do in my career, but I was going to wait until there was something that dictated me making that decision. The injury didn’t force me to go down to 145, but I took it as a sign.

“These were the things that were happening to me and it helped make that decision. I always knew there would be a reason to go down a weight class, and instead of sitting around and waiting for that reason, I took the opportunity to go down and fight at a weight I am comfortable at.”

His opponent this weekend, Erik Koch, is quickly becoming notorious for his devastating striking. The Duke Roufus-trained standout has earned back to back “Knockout of the Night” honors, Brookins knows what is waiting for him once the cage doors close.

“Koch’s striking is great and he’s shown that every time out. I’ve wrestled for awhile so I would imagine that’s where both of our strengths will be. I’m sure jiu-jitsu is going to be a factor in this fight. From what I hear his jiu-jitsu is actually really good, so I’m excited to play around in that area as well.”

“We both have incredible careers in front of us. Ultimately I would like, at the end of the fight, for it to mean a move up the ladder for me. That’s how I would like it to play out.”

The matchup with Koch will be Brookins’s first appearance in the Octagon since winning the reality show. Brookins believes that the past nine months have been part of a greater journey for him, both inside and outside the cage.

“I can say the experience from before, during and after the show has been a heck of a transition. I went from being in a low spot to one where you have a little bit more breathing room. It’s definitely a blessing, but one that you have to be prepared for because it comes with a lot of responsibility. When you get to this point it becomes a job. And it is ultimately the best job in the world, so it is one that you have to treat with the utmost respect.

“It is an opportunity to be in the UFC and have fans who know who you are. You are in the UFC and it is nice to get there without having to maybe pay as many dues as other fighters have had to pay. It’s a blessing and I think that you definitely have to work very hard. You have to live up to the standards of what people see from you on the show, so there is a little bit of added pressure. It’s a blessing that you don’t want to go to waste.”

Brookins is aware of the opportunity winning “The Ultimate Fighter” has afforded him, and he’s also conscious of walking to the beat of a different drummer. Brookins is constantly on the search for self-improvement and if that catches on in MMA, it is fine by him.

“I hope that more will see things from that angle, the search for a bit more self-enlightenment. Being involved in mixed martial arts is a great way to grow, both inside and out. That is one of the beautiful things about this sport. I would definitely like to see more people progress as a whole – as a person and not just physically – as mixed martial artists. But by no means do they have to.

“I’m just saying it would be nice to see, because those two things do go hand in hand. Progression and enlightenment go together perfectly.”

Brookins will be looking to make a statement on Saturday night. Even with that being the case, his focus remains on self more than substance.

“Fans are going to see a fighter who is working his way to becoming the best fighter he can possibly be. I’m still in the process and it’s a process in the making. If anyone wants to follow me on Twitter they can do so @J_Brookins. Also feel free to include in this interview that Heavy is my favorite MMA website. That’s no joke.”