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Michael Chiesa explains why Gilbert Burns will be his ‘greatest rival’ in the UFC

Michael Chiesa feels he has found his perfect competitive matchup.

While most fighters find their greatest professional rivalries out of trash talk and personal differences, Chiesa has found his in the surging Gilbert Burns, who’s slated to meet Tyron Woodley in the main event of the UFC’s upcoming May 30 event.

Both Chiesa and Burns have found great success leaving strenuous weight cuts to 155-pounds behind. Burns has gotten the opportunity to take on a former champion, and Chiesa admits he’s a little salty about getting passed up. But the TUF winner believes a fight with “Durinho” is still in the cards sooner rather than later.

“It is a tough thing, but I think the fight could still be there once he and Woodley are done doing their thing,” Chiesa said while appearing on MMA Fighting’s What the Heck. “I think Gilbert Burns is going to become my greatest rival. We speak regularly, we both have a certain amount of respect for each other. And I’ve told him, ‘Dude, I want nothing more than to compete against you,’ and I think that’s my best challenge right now. I look at his skillset and that’s the guy that’s going to give me the most problems. If you pair that with the fact that I have a ton of respect for the guy, I think the world of him. There’s nothing to lose. Let’s go have fun.”

“Maverick” created headlines when he said he’s unlikely to take a fight amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to his inability to adequately prepare. That ruled out an immediate meeting with Burns, who told MMA Fighting he’d spoken to Chiesa about a potential matchup after his first-round finish of Demian Maia in the co-main event of UFC Brasilia.

Chiesa was asked to give his perspective on that conversation.

“I pretty much told him, ‘I’m not gonna fight the best jiu-jitsu practitioner at welterweight without being able to go train at my jiu-jitsu academy,’” he explained. “If you’re going into an MMA fight, and you have a revolver that holds six bullets, that’s like pulling two bullets out and only being able to go in there with four. I’m trying to have as many bullets as I can heading into a gun fight.

“Going to fight Gilbert Burns while not training jiu-jitsu, I mean, that’s just stupid. That’s kind of what I told him: ‘I want to fight you bad, but I’m not doing myself any favors if I can’t train jiu-jitsu. I’m not a black belt world champion like you – I’m a blue belt.’”

After being submitted by Anthony Pettis in his final lightweight fight, Chiesa has won three consecutive welterweight bouts in the octagon. The 32-year-old picked up a second-round submission win over Carlos Condit at UFC 232, along with back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Diego Sanchez and former champion Rafael dos Anjos.

As Burns prepares to take on the former welterweight champion later this month, Chiesa will be watching with a vested interest.

“I’m pulling for him against Tyron,” he said. “I think that, no matter what, him and I are on a collision course. We’re gonna fight someday. It’s just destined to be. Until then, I’m just gonna sit back as a fan and I’m hoping he wins. I’m definitely hoping he beats Woodley. That would be huge. That’d be a big feather in his cap.”

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