Gilbert Burns is set to challenge Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight title at UFC 251. The pair are not only the two best welterweights on earth, but long-time teammates.
Both Usman and Burns have both spent their recent careers training at Sanford MMA in South Florida, under the tutelage of Henri Hooft. Ahead of the matchup, Usman will relocate to Denver, Colorado to train under Trevor Wittman, the man behind Justin Gaethje, Rose Namajunas, and others.
“Florida was the base for a long time, but you grow from there,” Usman told ESPN of his departure from Sanford MMA. “We always had a ton of guys, some of the best training partners out there and some great coaches.
“But I wanted a little more specific attention at this point in my career — someone to be able to say, ‘You’re going to come in at this time and work on this particular skill,’” he continued. “It’s very tough to do that when there are 40 to 50 guys in the room with you who also need to get attention.”
Before Usman packed his bags, however, he and Burns crossed paths at Sanford MMA. According to Burns, it was a little bit weird, but it also provided the two men an opportunity to clear the air—and make plans for a post-fight beer.
“On Monday, right after the UFC Las Vegas card that my brother fought at, I ran into him in the gym when I came back,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “He stayed here that week and then went to Colorado to finish his camp. We spoke, and it was all good. He said, ‘Let’s fight, leave it all in the octagon, and then we’ll have a beer together.’ It will be very professional.
“I was surprised when I saw him. But I was like, ‘Oh, he’s here, cool, let’s have this talk today.’ It was even better that he was there, actually. It was OK. I knew he would show up in the gym, but I didn’t know when. It was a bit weird, but it was very light.”
Despite his closeness to Usman, Burns says he will be looking for the finish. That being said, he doesn’t expect it to be easy.
“I’m going there to knock him out or submit him,” Burns said. “That’s what I want to do, but I think it’s going to be a war. I think Kamaru is tougher than Woodley and Demian (Maia), my last two fights. I had a great performance, but Kamaru is a different person, and I think it will be hard to either knock him out or submit him. That’s what I want in the fight, a finish, but I think it’s going to be an intense five-round war.”
Gilbert Burns last fought earlier this month, when he picked up a lopsided decision win over the former champion Tyron Woodley.