Gilbert Burns Discusses UFC 283 Options, Surveys Welterweight Landscape

Top Ultimate Fighting Championship 170-pound contender Gilbert Burns is watching his division very closely.

Burns intended on fighting at UFC 283 in Jan. 21, no matter the opponent. Luckily for him, the UFC also intended on placing the fighter from Niteroi, Brazil, on that event in Rio de Janeiro. Burns (20-5) was offered and accepted to face off against multiple opponents in the upper echelon of his division, and he finally found someone that would match his “anyone, anywhere, anytime” mentality: Neil Magny. At UFC Fight Night 214 in November, Magny (27-9) broke the promotion’s welterweight record for the most wins with 20, passing Georges St. Pierre.

“I understand that Neil was not the opponent most Brazilian fans were expecting, but make no mistake, Magny is one of the most experienced guys in the division,” Burns stated. “The ‘king of the cardio’ will be another great challenge to me.”

The lower-ranked Magny, who is unranked on Sherdog and the no. 12 welterweight in the UFC, was not remotely the first choice for “Durinho.” There were originally four options, and the first three declined to face him.

“The no. 1 UFC option has always been [Jorge] Masvidal,” Burns said. “They offered him three different dates in Las Vegas, New York and Brazil, and he declined [them] all.”

. According to Burns, the second plan was Belal Muhammad, who said no because of the timing.

“[Belal] was coming from a victory [over Sean Brady in October], and didn’t want to fight in Brazil without a complete camp, and UFC wanted me in Rio, so he was discarded,” the Brazilian explained.

Burns revealed that before Magny came up, the possibility of a rematch with Khamzat Chimaev was also cogitated.

“When [Chimaev] said he would accept to come to Rio, things started to be serious,” said Burns, “but I think UFC had other plans for him and didn’t want to throw a guy with such a giant hype in another war. In my opinion, they want to put Chimaev straight for the belt, so they came [to me] with Magny’s name.”

When discussing his former opponent Chimaev – a man he went three back-and-forth rounds with in April – Burns said that the Chechen might have a surprise if he continues underestimating Colby Covington, if the UFC indeed makes that fight.

“Unlike [what] many people may think, Covington is not a good matchup for him,” Burns analyzed. “If the fight is five rounds, in that case, I see Colby being smart enough to avoid his knockout power [for] first two rounds, using his bigger gas tank and great wrestling to win in the following rounds. But if the fight is only three rounds, Chimaev might have [the] advantage.”

After Brazilian champions lost two major lightweight belts within a month to Dagestani-based opponents, Burns suggested that it is absolutely necessary for his countrymen to train more wrestling. Charles Oliveira dropped his UFC belt to Islam Makhachev at UFC 280 on Oct. 22, while Patricky Freire fell short against Usman Nurmagomedov at Bellator 288 on Nov. 18.

“We have great wrestling coaches in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Natal,” Burns noted. “If the guy is an MMA fighter and still [doesn’t] have money to get a flight to USA or Russia, get a bus to some of those three cities. No doubt we have great striking and ground coaches in Brazil, but to fight at the highest level, [it] is absolutely essential to know wrestling.”

In Brasilia, the Cerrado MMA camp has bolstered its growing roster that includes a few recent signees in Ismael Bonfim and brother Gabriel Bonfim, with powerful Cuban-born wrestlers. Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro celebrates both Antoine Jaoude and Daniel Pirata to boost the wrestling chops of those around. Additionally, the Pitbull Brothers gym in Natal regularly involves Eric Albarracin, when he is not training competitors at Fight Ready in Arizona. Plenty of Brazilian talents around the country are improving their wrestling chops on a regular basis, and this has led to additional skilled wrestlers plying their trade in the South American nation. One 26-year-old American has caught Burns’ eye as of late.

“People are just talking about Bo Nickal, Myles Martin already beat Nickal a couple of times and this guy is training with us. I embraced him here. This guy is on another level. Keep an eye on him,” “Durinho” concluded.

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