A good example of that was McGregor’s recently filmed stint on The Ultimate Fighter, where he coached opposite Burns’ longtime teammate Michael Chandler. The Irish superstar specifically requested that two of his training partners be added to the cast, which came at the expense of two other athletes who had already been picked, including another Burns’ teammate Loik Radzhabov.
While Radzhabov didn’t get to compete on the reality show, he was signed directly to the roster after accepting a short-notice opportunity to compete at UFC 285. Radzhabov ultimately earned a hard-fought decision win, but Burns says even that was a little bittersweet given the circumstances.
“The craziest thing that people don’t know is we have a guy on our team, Esteban [Ribovics], he was fighting on the Jon Jones card [at UFC 285] and he got an opponent who pulled out and he got Loik as an opponent,” Burns revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “So we have our guys fighting each other in that fight.
“Loik, he fought against our own guy, they’re training partners and they have to fight each other in the UFC.”
Despite his initial anger over McGregor’s selections bouncing Radzhabov off the show, Burns understands why those demands were met as a condition to have the former two-division UFC champion accept the coaching job.
Still, Burns wishes it had been handled better rather than Radzhabov being pulled just as filming began.
“I get it — whenever you’re Conor McGregor in the UFC, you can do different things,” Burns said. “I get it. I just think if I’m doing The Ultimate Fighter show and I have two or three guys that I want to put in, I would let Dana [White] know before and I would put those guys there and get quarantined like everybody and do the whole thing like everybody. Like I need these three guys inside, but you’re not going to come to the day [filming begins] and do that. That’s why I got mad.
“It is what it is. I’m happy Loik is in the UFC. Unfortunately, first fight was against our own guy Estaban, but yeah, it’s good that at least he’s in the UFC.”
With production on The Ultimate Fighter already wrapped, McGregor now begins preparation for his eventual showdown against Chandler, which is expected to take place at 170 pounds.
If that happens, McGregor will compete at welterweight for the fourth time in his UFC career after previously earning wins over Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz in the division. While he’s spent the majority of his UFC career at either lightweight or featherweight, McGregor recently told MMA Fighting that he would actually like to get a shot at welterweight gold if he gets past Chandler later this year.
Burns may scoff at that suggestion, if not for the potential to earn a hefty payday against the UFC’s biggest draw without facing nearly the same risk as other top welterweights.
“The only thing he can do at 170 is make whoever’s the champion rich,” Burns said. “I hope it’s me, but if it’s Leon [Edwards], if it’s Colby [Covington], whoever it is, you’re going to get a lot of money, but I don’t think it’s going to be a hard fight.
“Whenever [McGregor] is committed to training, no whiskey, no crazy stuff, if they lock him up and this guy’s focused on training, he’s very dangerous. But I don’t think that’s the case. But that’s at 155. At 170, it’s a whole different game. We’re all like 190 [pounds], lean, mean, fighting the best guys in the world, and this guy thinks he’s going to jump out of the yacht and beat me, beat one of the top 5 [fighters]? Guaranteed, no way he’s doing that.”
For his part, Burns welcomes McGregor to test himself against the best welterweights in the world, although he doesn’t think the outspoken Irishman will like his results very much.
“He should try,” Burns said of McGregor. “He’s welcome to try, but I guarantee anyone in the top 5 will finish him inside three rounds. He’s done.”
As far as McGregor’s matchup with Chandler, Burns is honest enough to admit that fight will likely be a toss-up between two fighters who have unbelievable finishing power. H’s rooting for Chandler to get the job done, but he’s well aware of the dangers McGregor poses.
“I think it’s going to be a first-round fight,” Burns predicted. “It don’t need to be five rounds. It’s only going to be one round in that fight. Conor used to be freaking good. We don’t know where he’s at right now. A long time, he don’t compete. He lost his last couple fights. I don’t know. Chandler, on the other hand, he’s had a couple of wars. He’s been in the wars with these guys in the UFC.
“I think it’s going to be a first-round fight — whoever hits first, that’s it. Good night for the other guy. I hope Chandler wins but Conor has a big chance, too. It’s a crazy fight. But Chandler at the beginning with that power, with the explosion, with the speed, super quick in and out, I think Chandler can knock him out. We’ll see. First round, we’ll not see a second round in that fight.”