Since joining the UFC, Gilbert Burns has only had two goals – to become champion and to compete with the best fighters in the world. That’s why Burns requested to step into the Octagon with Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 273.
Through four UFC fights, Chimaev has flashed absolute brilliance, dominating John Phillips, Rhys McKee, Gerald Meerschaert, and Li Jingliang.
Although those performances were incredibly impressive, Burns can’t help but crack a smile when detailing the difference between him and that of Chimaev’s former foes.
“I’m at the top of the division. I’ve fought the champion and former champions, fought guys that fought for the title and beat all these guys. There are levels,” Burns told UFC.com. “I’m giving him the opportunity. I earned my opportunity to be here, and he doesn’t have a lot of fights but I’m giving him the opportunity. We are going to find out [if the hype is real]. I think he’s very tough and very good, but I want to fight for the title again and I want to fight the toughest guys in this division.
“When I’m done, I want to know that I fought the best and I consider him one of the best. Why not? We’re going to find out a lot of answers to a lot of questions on Saturday.”
While Chimaev was on the rise, it was portrayed as if no welterweight wanted to fight him, but that wasn’t the full truth. Some fighters may have declined a showdown with Chimaev, but only a handful have specifically reached out to the UFC hoping to do battle with him.
Burns was one of those men.
“I think they promoted the fight very good. They said, ‘No one wants to fight this guy,’ and this and that, but I asked for this fight,” Burns said. “I see a war, I see a very tough fight, but I like this. I asked for this and I’m ready for this.”
An early look at the odds place Burns as a heavy underdog against Chimaev. It’s a position that Burns is familiar with, and a position that he believes brings out the best in him. From the moment the fight with Chimaev became public knowledge, he knew that people would count him out, despite the fact that his only defeat at welterweight (6-1) was to pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman.
When Burns and Chimaev finally meet face-to-face, it’s going to be impossible not to notice the difference in stature between the two men. The tale of the tape would indicate that Burns, who found success in his UFC career at lightweight, will be much smaller than Chimaev. It may appear as an advantage, but being the smaller fighter isn’t something that’s a concern for Burns.
“If you compare the giraffe and the lion there is a big difference,” Burns said with a smile. “The giraffe is big and tall but he’s not the king.”
The 35-year-old Brazilian believes defeating Chimaev will make another statement about who he is as a competitor. He sought out the hottest prospect and contender in the division and beating him would help his argument that he deserves another shot as Usman sooner rather than later.
“The winner of this fight is going to be in a very good spot, either me or him, and I believe it’s going to be me,” Burns said. “With a finish and with a dominant performance, oh yeah, I’ll get all that hype for me.
“The way I see it, I for sure respect this guy; I respect every fighter that I fight, and I have to. I need to have this little fear, but it’s nothing different than fighting Kamaru or the other fighters that I’ve fought. It’s another tough guy that I’ve got to respect, but I do believe my skill set is going to help me beat this guy.”
UFC 273: Volkanovski vs The Korean Zombie took place on Saturday, April 9, 2022, live from a sold out VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!