EXCLUSIVE | Josh Burkman Feels ‘Unbeatable’ Coming Into Title Shot at WSOF 6 | BJPENN.COM RADIO
“I’m just getting in there, and I feel that I’m unbeatable, and that’s a real belief,” WSOF welterweight fighter Josh Burkman said of stepping into the cage before a fight. “And I love to fight! Those things together make me a dangerous opponent.” Burkman is set to face Steve Carl in the World Series of Fighting’s inaugural welterweight title fight this Saturday at WSOF 6.
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
One of the top fighters in the World Series of Fighting, it is only fitting that Josh Burkman fight this weekend for the organization’s first championship belt. Burkman is undefeated in the WSOF, and his last two fights saw “The People’s Warrior” finish Aaron Simpson and Jon Fitch both within the first round.
As the days come to a close before his title bout against Steve Carl, Burkman took some time to talk with BJPenn.com Radio to talk about the fight and what it has taken to come to this point in his career.
For Burkman, who has fought a total of 35 professional fights, the road to the WSOF welterweight title has been a long one. After three years fighting with mixed success for the UFC between 2005 and 2008, Burkman left the organization on the tails of a 1-4 run. He immediately bounced back, going 5-1 before signing with the World Series. In WSOF, Burkman has gone undefeated in three fights.
The change of fortune, for Burkman, came with maturation and the wisdom that inevitably comes with age – and marriage.
“You know, I’m undefeated since I got married. I tell everybody marriage works. I really think that was a big part of it. I mean there’s been a big change in my life over the last five years, especially getting married. It’s really structured me and grounded me. Then having a little boy, it gave me – it took away all that selfishness and gave me more to fight for. It’s made me a better man and a better mixed martial artist. Not only that, but also, I think my team [at] Pit Elevated. For years, even when I was in the UFC, I never had a fight team; I was always traveling and training and putting together training camps for myself. So having a team and a group of guys around me where I’m helping them and it helps me, it helps keep me at a higher level than I’ve ever been before. I think those things – marriage, a family and a fight team – have brought out the best in me.”
All in all, the additional structure has suited Burkman well. His last two fights saw Burkman TKO Aaron Simpson at WSOF 2 and choke Jon Fitch unconscious at WSOF 3. Burkman says it all comes down to the confidence he has in his preparation, something that he now realizes he lacked in the earlier part of his career.
“I think the biggest thing is, back then, my lifestyle and the way that I trained was different… I’d get in shape for fights; and after fights I would get out of shape. I wouldn’t go into the gym at all until I had a fight. So I’d get up to 200, 205 lbs. I wasn’t in bad shape, I was just built like a football player, you know? I think that kind of training cannot instill true confidence in you when you’re getting in a cage. I was very confident, but inside, I knew that there was more that I could have done to prepare for those fights; or I knew that my lifestyle was up and down to keep balance.
“To where now, it’s different. I leave no stones unturned. I do everything that I know in my intelligence and over the ten years that I’ve learned in martial arts to make sure that I live my life so my performances are as good as they can be. What that does is inside it gives me tremendous confidence – to where I walk into the cage now, and I have no doubt that I’m going to perform at a high level. I don’t worry about winning, and I don’t worry about losing. When I walk into the cage now, the closer I get to the cage the more confident I get, and by the time that I get in there, I don’t feel like anyone can beat me. And I think that that confidence is real because of the way that I train and the way that I live my life. And that’s the difference: I’m just getting in there, and I feel that I’m unbeatable, and that’s a real belief. And I love to fight! Those things together make me a dangerous opponent.”
And this dangerous opponent will be meeting a slightly younger and slightly taller fighter this Saturday in Steve Carl. Burkman’s thoughts on Carl? He is counting on intelligence to help him defeat Carl.
“I think that Steve Carl has earned his shot to be in there against me for the belt. Winning those six fights in a row, the fashion that he’s won those fights against Trace and Steele, I mean, it puts him up there. I have a lot of respect for Steve Carl and his skills and his style. I’m definitely not underestimating him at all. I’ve trained as hard and as smart as I possibly can. I really just think… that at the end of this day, at the end of this fight, it’s just going to show that my martial art and my style is very intelligent – and it’s not just that I’m tough and not that I go out and finish it, but that I have a very smart, intelligent way of fighting. I think that Steve Carl is stepping up a level in competition. He won six in a row, but I don’t think that competition is the competition that I’ve had, and he’s definitely stepping up. It’s a big opportunity for him, and it’s also a big opportunity for me.”
As for what Burkman meant about his intelligent style, he described it as opportunistic patience.
“My style when I was younger was just come out, come forward and go hard. Guys started dancing around and finding ways to fight me where they didn’t have to come forward. Now, I’ve just disguised my style in a way that makes guys think that I’m moving around; but really, I just – I want to fight, you know what I mean? I’m looking for them to engage. I think any time engages me or tries to come at me aggressively, they get backed off. I think if you watch all my fights, they’re all like that. When you watch it and you study it, you go, ‘How come those guys are backing off? How come they’re not being aggressive?’ There’s a reason, you know? That’s what I want. I want Steve Carl to come out, and I want him to be aggressive, and the more aggressive he’s going to be, the shorter the night’s going to be. I just think that’s what I want to happen. I’m expecting Steve Carl to come out and be very aggressive. He’s got a little bit of a drunken monkey style, dancing around a little bit; but that’s what he’s got to be thinking. He’s got to be thinking, ‘I got to go out, I got to be aggressive and I got to go after Burkman.’ But if he does that, I promise it will be a short night for him.”
When asked about Carl’s record and the lower caliber of opponent’s he’s faced compared to Burkman’s own, impressive record, Burkman conceded the fact but made clear that it won’t matter when they step into the cage.
“There’s no doubt the competition that I’ve fought is tougher than the competition that Steve Carl’s fought. But at the same time, that’s not going to matter on October 26, because Steve Carl is a very game, and very talented martial artist. We’re going to see where his level is at, and we’re going to see where my level is at; and that’s what it’s about, a competition [to see] who is going to represent this organization as a champion. There’s no doubt that my competition has been stiffer and that Steve Carl is jumping up a level in competition, but I don’t know that that makes a huge difference on October 26.”
As for a game plan, Burkman said that’s all up to his opponent.
“It’s a different kind of fight. In all my fights I don’t go in there trying to say that I’m going to enforce my will or my gameplan on Steve Carl. Steve Carl can decide where this fight is fought. If he wants to stand up, we’re going to stand up. If he wants to try to clinch and wrestle with me, we’ll clinch and wrestle. If he tries to take it to the ground, then that’s where it will be done. I just really believe that, depending on how aggressive he tries to be and where he tries to take this fight, is going to dictate how it goes. Which is why I think I’m tough to gameplan for, because it’s like, ‘Where is this guy gonna fight?’ Well I’m going to fight wherever you want to fight. I think that I’m better… in all those situations. I think it’s a very interesting fight for that reason. We all say, ‘Oh, I’m going to win,’ and ‘I’m better than ever,’ and you know, I could say those things too; but listen, I am just as excited as everybody else to see what happens in this fight – because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think we’re going to go out there, and I know I got a very tough opponent in Steve Carl. What’s really going through my head is I’m better in this training camp than I’ve ever been in my whole career, and I’ve gotten better and better every fight, and the results have been better and better every fight: so how could I possibly be better now? And there’s no better opponent to challenge me and help me get better than Steve Carl, a guy who’s won six fights in a row, all by submission, all in the first round. I’m looking forward to the challenge that Steve Carl presents, and I’m interested to see how it turns out myself.”
And for those Burkman fans out there who are wondering about his signature walk-out onesie, you can count on “The People’s Warrior” donning the outfit for more fights. He told BJPenn.com Radio that if he can’t get a onesie sponsorship soon, they’ll “end up having a competitor in the mixed martial arts business and it’s going to be my company!”
Be sure to catch Burkman vs. Carl at WSOF 6 as the two welterweights fight for the World Series of Fighting’s inaugural championship belt. The fight takes place this Saturday, October 26 at 9pm/6pm ETPT live on NBC Sports Network.
Also, be sure to catch all the episodes of BJPENN.COM All Access: Josh Burkman’s Road to the WSOF Title on our YouTube channel!