Brazilian lightweight Gilbert Burns (14-3) is coming off of a dominant win over the ever-tough Olivier Aubin-Mercier at UFC 231.
Burns spoke with The Body Lock recently about his ideal opponents, fighting in Fort Lauderdale, his upcoming jiu-jitsu matches, and more.
The 32-year-old has won three of his last four and is looking to jump into the crowded lightweight rankings. To do that, he wants to fight next at UFC Fort Lauderdale, which is set for April 27 at the BB&T Center.
“I have an opportunity to fight here in Fort Lauderdale that’s, like, 20 minutes from my house,” Burns told The Body Lock. “That would be nice, so I’m really looking forward to that opportunity. Looking forward to be fighting close to my friends, my family, everyone that supports me, and I’m very excited for that.”
According to Burns, the UFC has told him he will likely compete on the card, but there is one thing keeping everything from being official.
“It’s not 100% because I still don’t have an opponent,” Burns said.
“The UFC kind of confirmed the date; I’m pretty much sure I’m going to be fighting there. Just waiting on an opponent right now.”
As for who that opponent might be, Burns is quick to answer.
“I have two names in mind: either Charles Oliveira or Alexander Hernandez if I could choose. I think it’s a great matchup. Makes sense for the guys; make sense for me; makes sense for the organization.
“That was the two guys: Charles Oliveira or Alexander Hernandez.”
Oliveira (26-8, 1 NC), a fellow Brazilian, is another lightweight surging up the rankings. The 29-year-old has won four straight fights over the likes of Clay Guida, Christos Giagos, Jim Miller, and David Teymur, defeating all four men by way of submission.
A match between Burns and Oliveira, both Brazilian grapplers and finishers, could easily earn potential “Fight of the Night” and/or “Submission of the Night” honors.
Should Burns draw Hernandez (10-2), another exciting matchup would be sure to follow.
Several days after the fight, Burns took to Twitter to call for a fight with Hernandez, tagging Hernandez, UFC President Dana White, UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, and Burns’ manager, Ali Abdel-Aziz.
Be honest right now!
Who would like to see me beat up @TheGreat155 and teach him a lesson on how to be respectful? Miami @ufc April 27! Come on lil Dorke, sign that contract @seanshelby @danawhite @AliAbdelaziz00 ???? pic.twitter.com/P69UyjXpuf
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) January 31, 2019
Looking up at the top of the division
At any rate, Gilbert Burns is looking to propel himself into the lightweight rankings. At the top of those said rankings, a bit of chaos has reigned supreme. Featherweight champion Max Holloway is moving up in weight to face top contender Dustin Poirier at UFC 236 in Atlanta, leaving former interim champion Tony Ferguson without a fight.
Burns weighed in on the situation, predicting the Holloway vs. Poirier title fight and assessing Ferguson’s situation, starting with the interim title fight.
“That’s a very tough matchup. I’m a big fan of Max Holloway’s, and I was there at his last fight; I fought Aubin-Mercier on that card.”
Interestingly, Burns and Holloway spent some time together ahead of their respective bouts.
“You know, we were cutting weight together. He’s huge – huge! – for 145 [pounds]. The way I saw him cutting weight, I knew, one day, he’s going to 155 [pounds].”
Ultimately, Burns is siding with Holloway, though he’s mainly just excited for the fight to happen.
“That fight would be crazy! I’m a little bit more on Holloway’s side, just because I’m a fan of his style, but Dustin Poirier is a beast, too. I don’t know, but that fight will be good. I’ll be looking forward to that fight, for sure.”
No matter how good a Holloway vs. Poirier fight might be, Burns still feels for Ferguson’s situation, though he’s quick to acknowledge the rough nature of the sport in which they compete.
“[Ferguson’s] situation is tough right now. I can see his side, as well, ’cause he got the interim title; he beat Kevin Lee. He got injured, and then he lost opportunities. And then he fought again [against Anthony Pettis at UFC 229], and now he’s not fighting. I don’t know. I don’t know why he decided to not take the fight.
“It’s a little frustrating, but it’s a part of the promotions. So, we know that the opportunity will come, and you just gotta to be able to fight; be ready to fight. You know, at the end of the day, it’s your fault. You got to be ready to fight,” said Burns, in the midst of preparing for a UFC Fort Lauderdale fight without an opponent booked.
If the UFC is unable to find Burns an opponent for UFC Fort Lauderdale, he’s willing to compete at UFC 237, in his native Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, too, adding that he’s “getting ready to fight in Rio, as well.”
Back to his roots
While Gilbert Burns might not have an MMA fight booked, he’s making sure to stay busy.
Next weekend, on March 15, Burns will face UFC veteran and fellow Brazilian, Gleison Tibau, in the first-ever combat jiu-jitsu match under the Titan FC banner.
“Tibau is as tough that you can get. He’s still holding one of the [records for] most takedowns in UFC history. I know how tough he is. We’re not friends, but we know each other and kind of respect each other, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Interestingly, Burns notes, they were once in talks to fight in MMA when Tibau was with the UFC.
“We were in conversations to fight each other when he was in the UFC, maybe two years ago… the fight didn’t come true. I’m very excited. I know it will be a great challenge. And I like combat grappling, as well.”
This isn’t the first experience Burns will have with combat jiu-jitsu, though it is his first official match.
“I did [playful combat grappling] so many times when I was a kid,” Burns laughs. “I just did it recently helping [fellow black belt star] Vagner Rocha for his fight, and I like it. I think it’s a very good transition, especially for a jiu-jitsu guy that wants to do MMA. That would be a nice transition before to get to an MMA fight: do grappling combat. And I like it. I think it would be very entertaining. I like their rules that Titan FC did it. I’m very excited.”
Something in the water
Ultimately, Burns attributes a lot of his on-mat and in-cage successes of late to his gym, Hardknocks 365, and its coaches.
As for what makes the gym such a great place to train, Burns said, “I think, to be honest with you, Henri Hooft, Greg Jones, Kami Barzini. The thing that they do different, it’s we have no drama at the gym. Like, everybody’s just trying to get better, trying to fight.”
That’s a new concept for Burns, who contrasted this experience with the ones he had while with the now-defunct Blackzilians.
“We already came with a lot of guys from the Blackzilians; that’s how most of us started training together. Really a lot of drama. We had a lot of things sometimes going on. So, I think we learned so much of that transition. Right now, we don’t want no (sic) drama. We just want to go there and have a nice facility.”
And the facility is nice, in more ways than one.
“A lot of the fighters come with the family, you know? Like, my wife always comes to my practice. [UFC lightweight] Nik Lentz always comes with his daughters; [UFC welterweight champion,] Kamaru [Usman] always comes with his daughter. So, it’s kind of like a family place: everyone respects each other and we just try to make each other better.”
Technically speaking, Burns thinks it’s the return to the basics that has seen fighters like Usman, Burns, Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler, and others reach new heights.
“I think another thing that’s making a lot of difference, is we (sic) not doing nothing crazy. Like, it’s the saying that Henri Hooft does: ‘keep it simple’. We just do a lot of basics. We do a lot of fundamentals. We don’t get out with a lot of crazy, fancy, flying stuffs (sic).”
Burns sees this as a winning recipe.
“We always stuck with the basics and I think that’s one of the reasons for the success of our team and I think we’re just going to grow.”
Gilbert Burns will look to get back into the cage at UFC Fort Lauderdale, on April 27. His next combat sports match, however, will be Friday, March 15, at Titan FC 53, when he takes on Gleison Tibau in the promotion’s first-ever combat jiu-jitsu match. That event will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.