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Gilbert Burns of Brazil celebrates his victory over Gunnar Nelson of Iceland in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Royal Arena on September 28 2019 in Copenhagen Denmark. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

A Blessing In Disguise For Gilbert Burns

A Positive COVID Test In July Gave 'Durinho' More Time To Prepare For His Dream

“I still got to train, got a couple more sessions. Make the weight. Face off…”.

Gilbert Burns is running down everything he has to do before his UFC 258 welterweight title fight against Kamaru Usman, and his ever-present smile is even brighter than usual.

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“I’m enjoying every single moment because I missed it so much last July. I’m even enjoying the interviews. Every single thing because I couldn’t enjoy it last time. I’m grateful that I’m doing that right now. I’m super happy. I’m finally right here. Fight week. A couple more days; a couple more sleeps. I’m super, super, super excited. I can’t wait for Saturday night.”

"This Isn't Personal, This Is Business" | UFC 258: Usman Vs Burns Preview
"This Isn't Personal, This Is Business" | UFC 258: Usman Vs Burns Preview

If you ever had to miss school because you were sick, only to return to school to find out the best day ever had taken place in your absence, you’d have to multiply that feeling by 1,000 to start to understand how Burns felt watching Jorge Masvidal replace him for the welterweight championship bout on last year’s UFC 251 card on Fight Island. After grinding his way towards the ultimate opportunity since 2014, COVID-19 forced the Brazilian and some of his teammates to the sidelines in the 11th hour. Like the rest of the world, all Burns could do was watch.

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“That was a good performance,” he says plainly. “Short notice for both guys, six days. He (Usman) did what he had to do. He don’t have the striking that Masvidal has. He was disciplined in that fight, took him down, made it boring. He can do that. He has the ability to shut those guys down. It was a good performance. I’m not going to lie.”

With Masvidal calling out names that weren’t Burns in the event he won the title, and hot upstart Khamzat Chimaev seemingly on everyone’s lips, “Durinho,” by his own admission, was nervous that his golden opportunity might evaporate. But Usman prevailed, Chimaev got paired with Leon Edwards, and Burns’ temporary despair turned into renewed motivation. In fact, the delay in the proceedings turned into a true silver lining.

Bonus Résumé: Gilbert Burns
Bonus Résumé: Gilbert Burns

“It was great to have more time. Especially after that fight—I had just beat Tyron Woodley—I got [only] one month to prepare for my title shot, you know? Now I have way more time. I got stronger. I got better.”

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The champion Usman is a puzzle that no fighter has yet solved, so any extra time to prepare could be worth its weight in gold.

“The great thing is my team knows him. All my teammates know him, my coach knows him, so I got very well prepared. At the end of the day, it was a blessing in disguise. Now I’m way more prepared than I was in July.”

Much has been made of the fact that Burns and Usman were longtime teammates with the squad now known as Sanford MMA, but it’s more of an interesting footnote than the source of any drama. Both men are models of class and professionalism; they both just happen to have their eyes on the same prize.

“I like Kamaru. It’s nothing against him. It’s not personal, it’s business. But if he signed that bout agreement, he knows I’m coming to knock you out or submit you. You guys are going to see a new champion. I want to become the best in the world, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m a different animal. Different than these guys that he fought. He knows that and you guys are going to see a new king.”

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Burns entered the promotion as a welterweight seven years ago before dabbling in the lightweight division for 10 fights. He was a threat everywhere he went, but it was obvious when he returned to welterweight for good in 2017 that he was where he belonged. Standing 19-3 overall in his MMA career, he remains undefeated at 170 pounds.

Gilbert Burns Fighter Trailer | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns
Gilbert Burns Fighter Trailer | UFC 258: Usman vs Burns

“In the welterweight division, I don’t need to kill myself to make weight. A lot of guys know how hard my weight cut was, and now at 170, I can fight. I can fight a lot more. I don’t need a lot of time to make weight, I make weight easy. I still bring the quickness from the lightweight division, but with the power of a middleweight. That was the difference for Gilbert Burns. Now I’m a healthier person…not just as an athlete, but a healthier human being. I sleep like a champion, eat like a champion, train like a champion, recover like a champion and Saturday night I’ll become the new champion.

“The biggest difference between me and Kamaru—and the rest of the welterweight division—is I’m very dangerous. I’m not just fighting to win by points. I’m not just going to control you. No. I want to finish you. I possess the danger than nobody possesses. I have the best jiu-jitsu in the division, and I have one of the most dangerous striking (games) in the division. I can finish this guy with both my hands. And I still haven’t shown so much…I have my knees and my kicks, elbows…a lot of things I still work on. But I’m the dangerous guy in that division.”