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Herbert Burns recalls waking up to news of brother Gilbert’s positive COVID-19 test

UFC Fight Night 90 Weigh-ins
Gilbert Burns was pulled from the UFC 251 main event after testing positive for COVID-19.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Back in his house in Florida after the devastating news of Gilbert Burns’ positive test for the coronavirus, which knocked him off a UFC 251 title bout with Kamaru Usman on July 11, Herbert Burns still can’t believe what just happened.

The Burns brothers, alongside training partner and UFC veteran Vagner Rocha, left Florida to Las Vegas late last week and were tested for the virus upon arrival at the hotel, and “no one had any symptoms.” Gilbert had a light headache, he said, but they thought it was due to his pre-fight diet.

The UFC welterweight contender was on point with his diet before hopping on a long flight to Abu Dhabi on Friday night, so he just laid on his bed and watched movies all day Thursday during quarantine. The next morning, however, a phone call changed his plans.

“It was crazy,” Herbert Burns told MMA Fighting. “He was woken up in the morning, the UFC said they were going to his room to test him again. My test result came back negative a bit later, at around 2 p.m. And then the UFC came and said his first test came back positive, and so did Vagner’s. The news of Greg Jones’ also testing positive came later.”

The UFC pulled the plug on the championship bout before Burns’ second test came back, Herbert said.

“It’s tough, a very complicated situation,” Herbert said. “‘Durinho’ trained really hard, he was fine — and I believe he will be able to conquer this belt for Brazil, for us, but some things are out of our control. You have to let it in God’s hands now. If He took this opportunity from ‘Durinho’s’ hands now it’s because something better will come down the line.”

Burns has no idea how they might have gotten infected by the virus, but recognizes that the pandemic is getting out of control in Florida. Burns confirmed that Kami Barzini and Aung La N Sang, coach and teammate, also recently tested positive for COVID-19, but doesn’t think they were the ones to pass it on to the 170-pounder.

Gilbert and his corners decided to drive all the way from Las Vegas to Florida after his fight got cancelled, and spoke with his wife, family and psychologist to “accept” the situation. Herbert, the only one to test negative, hopped on a flight back and is quarantined at home before being tested one more time on Monday.

“I’ve been in similar situations before,” Herbert said, “When I was fighting for ONE Championship and never, ever got the chance to fight for the belt. I was very frustrated and couldn’t accept it, I wanted to control the situation and ended up never fighting for the belt there. But now I’m in the UFC, and I have two great wins here.

“God takes one thing because He has something better down the line, and ‘Durinho’ accepted this way quicker than me [laughs].”

Burns is now focused on getting back to 100 percent and being healthy enough to start a new training camp. Jorge Masvidal will step in as a replacement on July 11, pending a negative COVID-19 test to allow him to travel to Abu Dhabi alongside his team.