Gilbert Burns Out of UFC 251 After Testing Positive for COVID-19

Gilbert Burns UFC
Gilbert Burns Credit: Youtube/UFC

Welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns is out of UFC 251 next Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19.

MMAJunkie reports that Gilbert Burns is out of the headliner against welterweight champion Kamaru Usman next Saturday at UFC 251, after testing positive for COVID-19.  Burns, his brother (and UFC fighter) Herbert Burns (updated, see below), and his coach Greg Jones also tested positive.  All three men did not board the flight to Abu Dhabi nor did Usman and his team.  The news comes late Friday night as many international fighters have already been tested and sequestered ahead of being flown out to Yas Island via chartered planes.  Per the report, the fight is expected to be rescheduled as opposed to a replacement fighter being found on seven days notice.  It should be noted, any replacement fighter would have to take the necessary time to be tested, quarantined, and then travel overseas to Abu Dhabi.

Burns has been the breakout fighter of 2020, fighting twice during the global pandemic and securing the biggest wins of his career in beating both Demian Maia and former champion Tyron Woodley.  The fight with Woodley last month was particularly impressive as he dominated the majority of the match in what was expected to be his toughest test to date.  As the UFC sought an opponent for welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, negotiations fell apart with top contender Jorge Masvidal and travel restrictions prevented Leon Edwards from being able to step into the bout.  After displaying a willingness to stay active, the UFC went with Burns for the next title shot.

UFC 251, or Fight Island as it has come to be known, will go ahead with two title fights: the featherweight title rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway and the bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and José Aldo.  The news of Burns’ positive test comes the same week as Anderson dos Santos, Vinicius Moreira, and Marinna Rodriguez  (cornerman) have all been pulled from the bouts due to the athletes or their members of their team testing positive for COVID-19.

Update, 11:05 AM ET: Herbert Burns has taken to social media to deny any positive COVID-19 test on his part.