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Gilbert Burns explains why he won’t underestimate Jason Saggo at UFC Pittsburgh

UFC Fight Night 90 Weigh-ins
Gilbert Burns faces Jason Saggo on Sept. 16 at UFC Pittsburgh.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Gilbert Burns learned an important lesson in his last UFC fight, and believes that will help him at UFC Pittsburgh.

The multiple-time jiu-jitsu champion met fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Michel Prazeres in Sept. 2016. Burns was so confident in the victory and happy for the extra money, he didn’t even consider turning down the fight after “Trator" missed weight by three pounds.

But when the fight started, “Durinho" wasn’t able to impose his game and ended up suffering his second loss as a mixed martial artist.

Now back to the Octagon a year later against Jason Saggo at Saturday night’s UFC Pittsburgh, Burns explained how that defeat changed the way he approaches the game.

"I consider myself better than Jason Saggo on the ground, but that won’t let me extra confident or relaxed,” Burns told MMA Fighting. "In fact, that gives me more obligation to train hard and be ready for any situation. I trained hard thinking that I couldn’t relax. I think that’s what I did against ‘Trator.’ I felt I was better than him and I was relaxed."

"I gave my best now, that loss motivated me,” he added. "It’s horrible when you train hard and your hands are not raised in the end. I’m confident I’ll have my hands raised in the end now.”

Burns was originally booked to return against Paul Felder in February, but was forced out of UFC 208 due to an elbow injury. After being cleared to train a month later, “Durinho" kept asking the UFC for fights, but it took months for the promotion to find him an opponent.

"If it was up to me I wouldn’t have stayed away for so long, but time goes by and you start to understand why things happen the way they do,” Burns said. "I had a lot of aspects of the game to evolve, a few holes in my game, so I used this time away in a positive way.

"I kept asking for fights but they didn’t come, so I decided to keep my weight low. I focused on my boxing, to be more relaxed standing, and my wrestling. I also evolved with my finances, teaching classes in my gym so I don’t have to depend only on the money I earned from fights."

One of the things the Brazilian lightweight changed since his last UFC appearance was his diet. After being accustomed to going all the way up to 198 pounds in between fights, Burns hasn’t weighed any higher than 185 pounds since returning from injury, and he believes that helped his cardio and health.

And while he called out his fair share of popular lightweights over the last few months, “Durinho” is happy to be facing off with Saggo next.

“He's one of the guys I called out,” he said. "I wanted to test myself with well-rounded fighters who can test me on the ground. He has a good ground game, a black belt under Royler Gracie, so that’s exactly what I wanted.

"I called out Jim Miller, Joe Lauzon, Will Brooks. They would have been good fights for me and also for the UFC. It would make sense to book these fights, and it would be good fights too. Jason Saggo is great on the ground and is good standing, so it’s a fight that makes sense.”

With two MMA fights per year since signing with the UFC in 2014, the jiu-jitsu ace hopes to get a quick turnaround after UFC Fight Night 116 — especially if he’s right in his predictions.

"I visualize myself winning this fight,” Burns said. "He has a great jiu-jitsu, but also has some holes in his game. I plan on submitting him to make a statement and put my name among the best grapplers in the division. I see myself submitting him."