This Saturday, Gilbert Burns was scheduled to face Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title in the main event of UFC 251. But late last week, Burns was forced out of his title shot when he tested positive for COVID-19 during one of the UFC’s pre-event checks. With Burns out, the UFC turned to the man they had passed over to give Burns a title shot, ‘BMF’ champion Jorge Masvidal, and now, instead of fighting Usman on Saturday, Burns will now be cheering for the welterweight champion.
Speaking to ESPN on Monday, Burns spoke about Masvidal’s short-notice title shot, saying that he would be rooting for his former teammate to retain the belt, because if “Gamebred” becomes welterweight champion, he believes things will get wild in a hurry.
“I want Kamaru to win,” Burns said. “First of all, because I kind of like the guy. He’s not anymore, but he used to be my training partner, so for sure I got Kamaru. And if Masvidal wins, the things are gonna get crazy. It’s going to be a circus in that division. He’s going to fight who else, I don’t know, I think he wants to fight Conor (McGregor) or maybe Nate Diaz. I don’t think the division is going to run correctly, with the number one, number two guys fighting for the title. He’s going to make it a mess, so that’s another reason I want Kamaru to win.”
Burns is probably not wrong. The reason Masvidal was passed over for a title shot originally largely came down to a monetary dispute between Masvidal and the UFC. Should Gamebred win the title, it’s fair to assume those problems won’t just disappear. Furthermore, Masvidal has already explicitly stated that after winning the title, he’d like to return the favor Nate Diaz gave him with the ‘Baddest Motherf*cker’ belt by giving Diaz a welterweight title shot. Then, of course, there is the ever present possibility that Conor McGregor might want a welterweight title shot while he waits for the lightweight title picture to clear up. Anyway you slice it, that doesn’t seem to leave much room for Burns, the current top-ranked contender, and he recognizes that.
“I know if Masvidal wins, things are gonna get crazy,” Burns said. “I might have to do a couple more fights. I don’t mind but for sure I’d rather fight for the title next.”
That being said, watching Nate Diaz fight for the welterweight title might sting. After Masvidal was announced as the replacement for Burns, Diaz Tweeted a seal of approval for the change, declaring “real fights are better fights”, something Burns takes umbrage with.
“He’s a journeyman,” Burns said of Diaz. “I think I can beat the sh*t out of Nate Diaz any day of the week, even with the ‘rona on me. Even with the ‘rona, I believe I can beat Nate Diaz, out-box him, out-grapple him. I can slap that guy up easily. The guy comes out and does those comments, I’m a real fighter too, bro. I used to respect this guy a lot but I’m a real fighter too.”
He certainly is. Since moving up to welterweight last year, Burns is 4-0 with wins over Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia, and former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. And while in normal circumstances that kind of run would guarantee him a shot at the winner of UFC 251, again, Burns is ready for the possibility that he will have to sing for his supper.
“I don’t mind to fight more” Burns concluded. “Like I said, if Masvidal wins and then he picks Nate, let’s say he picks Nate for the end of the year, I don’t care. I’m gonna fight. I’m a fighter. I’m not gonna be hiding out, waiting, ‘Oh, please give me the opportunity.’ I’m going to take the opportunity.”