Jarred Brooks (ONE Championship)

ONE 166’s Jarred Brooks: ‘That Boy Ain’t Gonna Get His Belt Back’

“The Monkey God” Jarred Brooks has always had something to fight for. Whether it’s chasing a dream, becoming a champion, or proving that a major promotion made a huge mistake by releasing him, the man is driven. However, Brooks has a new motivation for fighting in his infant daughter Naomi.

In early 2023, Brooks and his girlfriend found out they were having a child, and he didn’t really have any fights booked on the horizon. This is not ideal for someone about to start a family. The ONE Championship strawweight MMA champion won his title after a seven-fight unbeaten streak landed him in the ONE Circle facing then-champion Joshua Pacio in Dec. 2022. The Filipino athlete won the title back in 2018, lost it in Jan. 2019, won it back three months later, and had defended it three times. Brooks, however, proved to be the real king of the division.

Brooks, who was born in Indiana, but fights out of Detroit, was one of the best 125-pounders in the UFC, but was released in late 2018, when it appeared the promotion was ending its flyweight division. Brooks was picked up by ONE three years later, and he proceeded to clean out their 125-pound (strawweight) division en route to a title clash with Pacio. After five rounds of pure domination, Brooks won gold, but he hadn’t fought since. In mid-2023, with no MMA bouts on the docket, he took a grappling match against jiu-jitsu ace and ONE flyweight submission grappling champ Mikey Musumeci. While he lost, and it wasn’t his ideal next bout, he got a check and hung in there with one of the best grapplers in the world.


“Mikey Musumeci is something different,” Brooks told Combat Press. “There’s a difference between great and legendary, and Mikey Musumeci is very legendary. I’ve rolled with some of the best of the best in jiu-jitsu and in combat sports, and Mikey is an amazing grappler and an amazing person. So, it was an honor to share the Circle with him. And, you know, even though I did get dominated, I think that it was a great learning experience for me and my mixed martial arts career and my path.”

Since then, Musumeci went on to defend his title once again against the legendary Shinya Aoki, who he submitted using Aoki’s own move, but he also started training in Muay Thai. Would Brooks want a rematch in MMA?

“ONE Championship just asked me about Mikey, and about fighting, and I was just like, ‘Bro, if there were punches, that would be a completely different grappling match.’” Brooks said. “Let’s just say that. I love Mikey, though, man. I’ve known his family for over 12 years, and his family’s been nothing but real and genuine. And, he’s a real and genuine person, and he deserves all of the accolades and all the love that he gets.”

For his next fight, Brooks will be getting a rematch, only this time in MMA. On Friday, Mar. 1, at ONE 166: Qatar, Brooks will be defending his title against Pacio, the man he captured it from over 14 months prior. While he was looking for maybe a different opponent, he understands why this fight is happening.

“I thought I’d beat him pretty definitively for his title,” Brooks expressed. “So, I mean, I wasn’t surprised, because he always gets a shot back at his title. He has a huge Filipino following, and the Filipinos are everywhere around the United States, and around the world. I mean, even in Qatar, there’s 2.1 million Filipinos. So, I can understand why they brought that match-up back. But, it’s my job to put him in a coffin and seal it shut, and never hear Joshua Pacio’s name again after this fight.”

Brooks has been a longtime student of James Lee, but after leaving their original gym, they had been training out of Lee’s home. About a year ago, they connected with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and coach Alex Hodi, and began using his gym, Roots Combat Club, as their home base. Over the last year, the teams have combined and Roots is their new home. With the unstoppable work ethic Brooks brings to the table, and his solid base of coaches and training partners, he never got stale or burnt out over the last year.

“I have a really good, you know, manifestation and, you know, my way of fighting,” Brook explained. “So, when I’m training, it’s just like, ‘what are we going to work on right now and how are we going to get better at this point in time?’ The only time that I did take off – I took like three weeks off when my daughter was born in November. I just wanted to make sure I was there for my baby and her mother, and I was there for her. and you know.”

Brooks loves being a father through and through. And, he’s just getting started. Being in Qatar, while his family is home, may not be ideal right now, but daddy’s got to work.

“I love it bro,” Brooks said of being a father. “She is the cutest little button in the world. She has a lot of traits that are just like mine.

“It’s super hard to be away from her, and it’s hard to be away from my girl as well. They’re the best things that ever happened to me in life, and they’re my biggest motivation. So being here, it just makes me want to finish Joshua Pacio really quick and get home and feed my daughter.”

Due to hydration requirements, ONE’s weight classes are always one division over what the weights are in most other organizations. The fighters get tested for both weight and hydration to avoid dangerous weight cutting, so for the strawweight division, he can weigh in at 125 pounds, which works out great for him during fight camp, because that’s what he walks around at.

“I actually got chicken pasta with white sauce,” Brooks said two days before the ONE 166 weigh-ins. “I eat like a king over here, bro. I don’t cut weight, so it’s super easy for me. I just ate some Wagyu burgers right before that, right after the press conference. I am 100-percent ready to go anytime. Give me a contract. I’m ready to go. My last fight in the UFC, I won, and it was on four days notice. And then, they cut me.”

Brooks is fully aware how important it is for Pacio, and his coaches and teammates, to recapture the title. However, Brooks has different plans.

“That boy ain’t gonna get his belt back,” Brooks said. “He ain’t bringing shit back to the Philippines, except for some balut. I’m the best strawweight in the world, man.

“Last camp, I didn’t really work on my wrestling, which is like my queen out of my chest board, and my striking was my pawn. But, I got my striking really heavy, working with Justin Scoggins and working with a Lumpinee Cup world champion in Muay Thai.

“So, when [Pacio] defended my takedowns, I wasn’t expecting that. So then, I had to bring other tools out of my tool belt, and I beat a Wushu world champion on the feet. So I think that my wrestling, I’ve been working day in and day out, along with my wrestling conditioning. I think that that’s going to be a pivotal thing in this match-up, and something different than what he’s expecting. My strength is way above his, but his leg strength – he has almost like a Jose Aldo type of takedown defense when he’s up against the cage. But, in the middle, he can get taken down. Anybody can get taken down in the middle. I’ve been working on my cage work and working on taking down Joshua Pacio and submitting him, which I think I will in the second round. It will not go the distance, I promise you that.”

After ONE 166, Brooks has his sights set on some opportunities that are not another rematch, and, potentially, not another strawweight fight, as he has already beaten most of the division. In fact, he has his eyes on some superfights.

“I would really like to be Demetrious Johnson’s last fight,” Brooks said. “I think that makes sense. He doesn’t have anybody to fight that Kairat guy. He got caught for cheating in Denver against Reese McLaren. But, if not Demetrious Johnson, then, you know, you can bump up to flyweight, and I’ll prove that I’m one of the best flyweights in the world, too, at 135. And, Reece McLaren – I think I could beat him. I think I can beat Adriano Moraes. I’ve trained with Adriano Moraes. I didn’t have any issues with him when I was training with him at American Top Team, and he was bigger at that point in time. Too. Um, yeah – Reece McLaren, Adriana Moraes, or Yuya Wakamatsu.”

On Mar. 1, Brooks will make the walk to the ONE Circle for the sixth time, if you include the grappling bout. He has proven over and over again that he is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and he has big plans on the horizon. Business comes first, and he is ready to show the world, once again, what he is all about.

“I am one of the best, complete mixed martial artists inside and outside of the Circle,” Brooks said. “I know how to speak, and I know how to make people interested. And, I storytell and make you interested, not just in me, but in my opponent. And then, when I am in the Circle, I always go for the finish. I’m always somebody that is fast – a million miles an hour, in your face – and I think that I’m one of the most entertaining fighters in ONE Championship right now. So, if you don’t watch March 1, I think you’re fucking up.”

ONE 166: Qatar airs live on Amazon Prime Video starting at 7:30 a.m. ET.