2020 is the year Shane Burgos has chosen to leap into title contention.
He couldn’t have picked a more complicated time. From mid-March onward, event after event fell to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Far more serious concerns had the world’s attention, as millions became infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Then, a light at the end of the tunnel. Some of the first areas to be hit by the virus began to recover. In the U.S., some states began to open up, and social gathering restrictions were eased. Just enough for the UFC to begin putting on shows, first in Florida, and now Nevada, at the UFC Apex.
At the UFC Apex on Saturday, Burgos (13-1) is in the co-main event at UFC on ESPN 11, taking on Team Alpha Male’s Josh Emmett. A few spots up the official rankings, consider Emmett step one in Burgos’ 2020 plan. Although, earlier in the calendar year, he was a bit concerned as to whether the plan would ever get off the ground.
“At the beginning of the year I was a little worried about that, but I got this fight booked, it’s a big one,” Burgos told Cageside Press at Thursday’s UFC on ESPN 11 media day. “I feel like I’ll be able to squeeze in at least one more before the end of the year. So I think it’ll be smooth sailing after this one.”
After all, with three cards already in the books, and two more pending, the UFC’s “got a well-oiled machine,” he pointed out. “I think they’ll be able to keep rolling them out.”
The co-main event status “is awesome,” Burgos added. That’s a first for the 29-year-old’s budding career. “Aside form the actual match-up that I’m excited for, I’m excited that I’m the co-main event,” he told us.
It’s been suggested that a win over Emmett might land Burgos a top five opponent next. “It definitely could,” he agreed. “I’ve got to go out there and not just win though.”
Instead, Burgos said, “I’ve got to go out there and put a stamp on this one. I’ve got to make a statement. As corny and cliche as it sounds, I’ve got to go out there and not just beat Josh Emmett, but I’ve got to beat Josh Emmett. I’ve got to finish him.”
No judges, in other words. Perhaps the smaller cage utilized at the UFC Apex can help facilitate that. “100%. It forces the action,” said Burgos. “I love the small cage. All my career before the UFC was in the small cage. I train in the small cage. Basically when the referee says go, you’re fighting, because there’s only about ten feet between you and your opponent right off the bat.”
Watch our full interview with Shane Burgos at the UFC on ESPN 11 media day above.