Herbert Burns signed a contract to fight Evan Dunham less than 48 hours before his older brother Gilbert Burns demolished Tyron Woodley at UFC on ESPN 9. Days after that flawless win, he’s inspired by “Durinho’s” performance ahead of Saturday night’s UFC 250 in Las Vegas.
Burns, a featherweight, and Dunham, a lightweight, will meet in the middle for a 15-pound catchweight bout on June 6. The Brazilian talent admits he was a bit “surprised” when the UFC came up with the offer, but loved the fact that he’s facing such a veteran in his second UFC appearance.
“He’s extremely experienced, he’s in the UFC since 2009 and has 19 fights in the UFC,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “I didn’t even train MMA in 2009, I wasn’t even a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and he was already in the UFC. But I see many holes in his game. He wasn’t in my radar because he wasn’t very active, he retired in 2018 and he’s a lightweight, so I never imagined myself fighting him.”
Dunham walked away form the sport after losing to Francisco Trinaldo in Brazil, but decided to come back earlier this year. He was originally booked to meet Burns’ teammate Michael Johnson in April, but the fight fell through. Even though Burns-Dunham will be contested at 150 pounds, Burns hopes it propels him into the top 15 of the featherweight list.
“I want to enter the featherweight ranking,” Burns said. “I think this win could get me closer to or even in the ranking if I win like my last fight. You never know. I’m sure I’ll go there and put on a great work.”
The ONE Championship veteran is riding a four-fight finishing streak, three of those in the opening round, and looks up to his brother’s success as as welterweight as “inspiration.”
“He showed how complete he is in this fight,” Herbert said of Gilbert’s one-sided decision victory over Woodley. “He has cardio, jiu-jitsu, striking and wrestling, and he’s ready to become the next welterweight champion. That inspires and motivates me to go there and show that Gilbert Burns is not the only one, that Herbert Burns and the whole Burns family is here to make noise in 2020.”
The UFC has had several set of iconic family duos throughout its history, but Frank Shamrock and Ken Shamrock were the only ones to win UFC gold. “The Blaze” wants to take it up a notch, putting the Burns name in the history books as the first brothers to hold UFC belts simultaneously.
When “Durinho” beat Alexey Kunchenko in his return to welterweight in Uruguay, he predicted he and his brother would win UFC titles. Less than a year later, the younger Burns says “we can achieve that.”
“It’s very realistic,” Herbert said. “I think we can be the first brothers to win UFC titles simultaneously. That’s in my plans, and that’s in his plans as well. And he’s close to it. I think his next fight should be for the belt because Leon Edwards is out of the country and can’t get in, Colby (Covington) just lost, and Kamaru (Usman) wants to fight soon — and Gilbert is available.”
“I think it’s possible, but it’s in UFC’s hands,” he continued. “But I have to do my work first. The mountain is high and I want to take solid steps on my way to the top. My first step was on the Contender Series and it was solid. My second step was a great performance against Nate Landwehr, another solid step, and that’s what I want to keep doing. I can’t control the rankings or anything like that, but I have the skills to fight the top of the division.”
Gilbert Burns agrees.
“That’s the scenario I see,” the welterweight contender said. “My brother is very skilled, his jiu-jitsu is way slicker than mine. He has a long reach for a featherweight, he’s huge for the division, and hits hard. He was always more skilled than me, I was the hard worker, but he saw the result of my hard work, that woke him up to work harder, too.
“I think he has what it takes to become champion. He’s smart, he’s talented. I don’t know what happens on fight day that this kid shows up and shines [laughs]. He’ll be champion soon. This fight will wake a lot of people up on him.”
Burns signed with the UFC after tapping Darrick Minner on Dana White’s Contender Series in Aug. 2019, and then knocked out Landwehr in his UFC debut in January. According to Burns, “nothing changes” as he goes from a prospect to a veteran in Dunham.
“I got to the UFC and showed that I’m not here to be in the mix, I’m here to go to the top,” Burns said. “Evan Dunham is very experienced, it’s going to be an excellent test. He has good boxing, good jiu-jitsu, can take a punch and has a warrior spirit that never gives up, so it’s going to be a great test for my evolution as an athlete. I’m going there for the kill.”
And how does he get to “kill” Dunham at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas?
“I think I’m superior in all areas of the fight, but my jiu-jitsu is way superior than his,” Burns said. “He has only been submitted once, by (Donald) Cerrone. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, has a background is in the grappling area, but I see myself submitting him.”
“Durinho” has trained with Dunham in the past, back when he lived in Las Vegas and trained with former UFC star Vitor Belfort, and predicts a stoppage victory for his younger brother.
“(Dunham) is very tough, but he likes to grapple,” Gilbert Burns said. “He won’t run away from it even though he knows my brother is good on the ground, he will grapple, so I see my brother submitting him, maybe in the first or second round. My brother also has good kicks to the body, front kicks to the body. If one of those kicks land on Evan Dunham — he has been knocked out with a kick to the body before —, it could be over. I see it going both ways.”