At UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2, Miami welcomes its hometown star Jorge Masvidal. Only 50 minutes away from the arena resides his opponent, Gilbert Burns, a Top 5 welterweight looking for his second win already this calendar year.
In January, Burns went relatively untouched in a one-sided first-round submission victory over Neil Magny at UFC 283. The win cemented Burns’ name among the short list of potential challengers for the welterweight title, but instead of waiting for his name to be called, Burns accepted this fight with Masvidal to further distance himself from the other top contenders.
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“2022, I just had one fight,” Burns said. “It was a crazy fight, Fight of the Year, but I’d lost, and I only had one fight, so 2023 [I] started on the right foot in Brazil, great win, didn’t get hit at all, no significant strikes against me, so it was a great performance.
“Three days later, I get a call for another fight. I’m looking forward to a busy year. I’m a hard worker, I love to work. I hope a win over Jorge Masvidal puts me in title contention, but guess what? If not, I’m going to get another fight as soon as possible. I want a big year.”
Burns currently trains alongside elite UFC talent, including Michael Chandler and Vicente Luque, at Kill Cliff FC under head coach Henri Hooft. Burns met Hooft 12 years ago backstage at UFC 133 when “Durinho” was cornering Vitor Belfort. At the time, Burns was still living in Brazil, but when he eventually moved to Florida four years later, he reconnected with Hooft and has evolved under his guidance ever since.
“Henri’s had a big impact on my career since the beginning,” Burns said. “My first connection with Henri was my first UFC fight as a cornerman. My first experience with the UFC, I was a cornerman for Vitor Belfort. Vitor fought Yoshihiro Akiyama in  when I was in his corner. The main event was Rashad Evans against Tito Ortiz, and Henri was in the back cornering Rashad and that was when I first saw that guy. [He was] big, teaching good, I kind of liked his style. A little bit after, we moved to Florida and started training with Henri and I shared a lot of great moments with Henri. We cornered [Beflort] many fights, Cezar Ferreira with Henri, I cornered Vicente Luque with Henri, my brother with Henri. We have a great relationship. He’s a mentor, a great friend. He’s a guy that’s been leading me to all of my victories. This guy’s a hard-working man, he works harder than me sometimes. He’s the one that I look at and admire like, ‘That guy works harder than me, I gotta step up my game.’”
During his fight week interview with UFC.com, Burns recounted numerous times where Hooft showed up to training two hours early to go through his own workout and prepare gameplans for all his pupils. Rather than vocally instructing, Hooft even engages in sparring against Burns, which “Durinho” says helps him physically pick up on the lessons Hooft is trying to teach.
After a hard day’s work in the gym, Burns’ mixed martial arts lifestyle follows him back home, where his wife, Bruna, and brother, Herbert, are both professional combat sports athletes who understand what it takes to stay in elite shape year-round.
“My brother is the one that does a lot of strategy for me,” Burns said. “He helps me with training; he’s there when I’m sparring, he’s there daily helping with my grappling. He knows how my mind goes sometimes. Sometimes I have that hulk mentality where I want to go super hard and he’s the one that makes me think about it a little more, take a step back [and] make sure I do the right decision.”
“My wife is my number one support. She does everything for me. She’s the head coach. She’s like, “Oh, you’re training too much, you gotta slow down. I’m gonna call your coach, I’m gonna call the psychologist, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that.’ She runs everything. I don’t respond to no emails, nothing. She does everything for me. I think, too, we love each other, we have a great relationship, but because she’s fought before - she has one MMA amateur fight, two Muay Thai fights, four-time Brazilian national champion in jiu-jitsu - she knows what it takes. My number one person on this Earth knows what it takes, and she just supports me the most.”
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Bruna and Herbert, along with many other family members and friends, will be in attendance Saturday night for Burns’ co-main event bout against Masvidal. Throughout the buildup for this fight, Masvidal was vocal in expressing his disproval of Burns’ fighting style, specifically his wrestling.
Since moving up to welterweight in 2019, Burns has reached a new level physically, developing powerful hands while maintaining his world championship level jiu-jitsu. In an effort to please the crowd like teammate Michael Chandler, Burns might strike with Masvidal early, but won’t waste any time taking the fight to the mat if the opportunity presents itself.
Gilbert Burns | Greatest Hits
Gilbert Burns | Greatest Hits
“Everyone has a different opinion, I don’t mind,” Burns said, responding to Masvidal. “He’s a great guy, I like that he has his own opinion. I think I’m a tremendous challenge for Jorge. I do think I have better wrestling, better grappling and I hit way harder than he does. I do think I have different ways to beat him. It can be only standup, I could out grapple him, I can make him very tired and submit him; I think I got a lot of options. I’m not saying that being cocky. I feel like it’s just fact. I do think I’m a better grappler, I do think I can take him down, I don’t think it’d be easy, his takedown defense is very good, and I think his best chance will be in the standup, where he’s a very explosive danger.”
Not only does Burns feel like he’s the better fighter skill-for-skill, he believes his mindset alone will give him a huge advantage on Saturday. During UFC 287 Countdown, Masvidal suggested that he may retire if he loses this fight but that he has full intentions on fighting three times this year. Pairing that with fighting in front of his hometown supporters, Burns believes it’ll be too much pressure for Masvidal to handle.
“Jorge Masvidal is a great opponent [but] I think his back is against the wall,” Burns said. “He’s putting all of this pressure that, if he doesn’t win he’s going to retire. I think he’s going to come very aggressive and I’m looking forward to it.”
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Those three losses came to former champion Kamaru Usman twice, and his bitter rival Colby Covington. Only Usman was able to finish Masvidal, albeit in his second attempt, so a knockout or submission this weekend will earn Burns bonus points as he tries to climb his way back to the top of the 170-pound division.
“I’m just going to finish him,” Burns said nonchalantly. “I think that’s the key. I think Colby Covington will probably fight for the title next. He’s very smart but didn’t finish [Masvidal in] five rounds. Kamaru, the first time he saw him, it took him five rounds. Then he finished him last time, so he kind of needed seven rounds to really finish the guy. I think I can get it done in maybe two rounds. I think a finish, and it’ll be entertaining. I’m going to come aggressive. He’s going to come aggressive. We’re going to meet in the middle [and] people are going to bleed.”
UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2 took place live from Kayesa Center in Miami, Florida on April 8, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!