Gilbert Burns says “it’s time to get this belt” as he prepares to fly to Abu Dhabi for a UFC title fight with Kamaru Usman on July 11. But having a teammate and friend on the other side of the octagon makes it a bit weirder.
“Durinho” became the No. 1 contender in the welterweight division after a dominant victory over Tyron Woodley in May. Days before signing the contract for UFC 251, he encountered “The Nigerian Nightmare.”
“On Monday, just after the UFC Las Vegas card my brother fought on, I met him at the gym when I got back,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “He stayed here that week and then went to Colorado to finish his camp. We talked and everything was fine. He said, ‘Let’s fight, let’s leave everything in the octagon, and then we’ll have a beer together.’ It will be very professional
“I was surprised when I saw it. But I thought, ‘Oh, he’s here, great, let’s talk today.’ It was even better that he was there, actually. It was good. I knew it would show up at the gym, but I didn’t know when. It was kind of weird, but it was very light. “
Usman and Burns will not share the same gym as they prepare to fight for the UFC gold, and they agree with that. Durinho said Henry Hooft, who trains both fighters, is having a hard time dealing with it and decided not to “get involved” in either field.
“We both liked him and he said he won’t take sides,” Burns said of Hooft. “But I’m in the gym and (Usman) went to another gym, so (Usman) has people working with him. I am following my regular training. I find it strange to ask Henry something. I’m training normally, but I’m giving Henry more space, because I know it’s very personal for him. … It is not completely normal, because I use Henry a lot, but Kamaru also uses Henry a lot. So it’s more or less the same for both of us. “
Usman has not lost a fight in over seven years, while Burns has looked amazing since returning to welterweight. Even with their close relationship, Durinho doesn’t think it’s strange to deal with the usual pre-fight routine, including pre-fight interviews where he promises to finish off his opponent.
“I’m going to knock him out or send him in,” Burns said. “That is what I want to do, but I think it will be a war. I think Kamaru is tougher than Woodley and Demian (Maia), my last two fights. I had a great performance, but Kamaru is a different person, and I think it will be difficult to knock him out or send him. That’s what I want in the fight, an ending, but I think it will be an intense five-round war. “
UFC 251 falls just 337 days after Burns’ first fight back to the 170-pound weight class, a decision that beat Russian talent 20-0 Alexey Kunchenko. The meteoric rise surprises the jiu-jitsu ace, but reaching the top of the MMA world has actually taken longer than he had ever predicted.
“At the beginning of my career, I always had plans, dates, the year I wanted to be champion, but things happened differently and I was very frustrated,” said Burns. “I stopped thinking about dates. I knew I’d become a champion, I knew I’d fight for the title, I knew I’d head a letter. I knew it would happen one day, but I decided to relax and let things happen. And it came. I didn’t know when, but I always believed I would be the UFC champion. “
In his original plans, Burns thought he would have had UFC gold around 2016 or 2017. But his first MMA loss, a decision setback against Rashid Magomedov in 2015, changed everything.
“I remember that fight (then UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva came to me and said he would go into the top 15 if he won,” Burns said. “And I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to win this fight and go into the top 15, and then I’m going to have four more fights and I’m going to be the champion in late 2016 or early 2017.’ I had that on my mind, and then I had my first defeat. I won another and then lost again to ‘Trator’ (Michel Prazeres), so I had to see that things would not happen in my time. “
The burns had to wait a little longer, but it seems correct that it happens now.
UFC 251 is exactly a decade after Burns flew to the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Abu Dhabi Professional Jiu-Jitsu World Championship, a fighting tournament supported by Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Durinho beat players like Celso Vinicius and Claudio Caloquinha to capture a gold medal, a special watch, and a $ 8,000 check.
“Ten years later, let’s keep the streak going and win again in Abu Dhabi,” he said.