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Gilbert Burns volunteers to challenge Kamaru Usman at UFC 251: ‘That’s the fight I want’

Gilbert Burns is undefeated as a welterweight, including five wins in the UFC octagon.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Gilbert Burns doesn’t plan on slowing down after the biggest win of his MMA career.

“Durinho” dominated former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley en route to a dominant decision victory at UFC on ESPN 9, and he’ll be back in the gym on Monday to prepare for his next bout.

Before Burns returns home, he’ll stick around in Las Vegas to corner his brother Herbert Burns, who faces Evan Dunham on Saturday at UFC 250, “Durinho” told MMA Fighting he’s targeting a title fight with his friend and teammate Kamaru Usman as early as next month.

“We’re waiting for the UFC’s decision,” Burns said. “I volunteered to fight for the UFC title in July if they want. I know UFC 251 is on July 11, and I volunteered for it. If they want it, I’ll fight for the belt on the 11th, or I can fight the No. 2 or No. 3 [fighter] in the rankings, whoever the UFC wants.

“I’ve already volunteered, and I will honor that. When I volunteer for a date, I make sure I’m ready for it in case something happens. I’ll get back to the gym on Monday.”

Challenging for the UFC belt is Burns’ ultimate goal, of course. But the title picture is crowded with names like Jorge Masvidal, Leon Edwards, Colby Covington and even Conor McGregor. Burns currently sits at the top of the 170-pound weight class after his win over Woodley, but he wants to stay active.

“I want to fight – I evolve when I’m fighting,” said Burns, who’s won four in a row since moving back up to welterweight, in the process going from unranked to No. 1 in just nine months. “My preference, of course, is to fight for the belt. That’s the fight I want, but I don’t rule out (other) fight. In case they book Kamaru against Masvisal, you can be sure I’ll be fighting Colby or Leon. But fighting for the belt is my preference, of course.”

A few days have passed since Burns put himself in great position for a shot at his friend’s title. “Durinho” hasn’t spoken with Usman yet; “The Nigerian Nightmare” is currently training in Colorado. But the Brazilian says his “conscience is very clean.”

“I’ve seen many of his interviews, back when Robbie Lawler was at the top of the division, when Vicente (Luque) was climbing (the ranking), and he said the champion has different opportunities,” Burns said. “When you’re the champion, your pay is higher, you have bigger opportunities, and he said he would never deny those opportunities just because someone trains with him. I know how he thinks, and I have my conscience clean.”

Burns and Usman would also have to figure out how their camps would go down since they also share coaches. “Durinho” believes his friend would probably go train somewhere else, “maybe with Trevor Wittman,” but he added, “it’s too soon to think about it. We will solve that problem when we get there.”

“I only want to fight him because he has the belt, because he’s the best, otherwise I wouldn’t want to fight him,” Burns said. “We see that as professionals. I’ll talk to him, I’m just waiting for the negotiations, if this fight will happen or not.”

One thing that Burns would definitely have to prepare for is the idea of hurting his friend in the octagon. The welterweights have trained together for years now, but the UFC belt was never on the line when they sparred in the gym.

“Durinho” admits he will have to prepare himself mentally for the idea of punching a friend in the face, because “even in the Demian (Maia) fight, someone that I don’t have a friendship, but I do admire, I thought twice before going over him to ground and pound to end the fight,” he said. “That’s something that will have to be worked on, because I really like Kamaru. We’ve been in wars in the gym for many years, he’s a great training partner, he gives me great training, and I will have to work on that if this fight is booked.”

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