Las Vegas, NV — Gilbert Burns still has that nagging “what if” feeling ahead of UFC 258.
Burns (19-3) is finally set to get his title shot against Kamaru Usman atop the PPV card. It’s a fight that was supposed to happen last summer, part of UFC 251 on Fight Island. COVID-19 scrapped that. Burns never even made it to Abu Dhabi, testing positive prior to boarding the plane in Las Vegas.
So understandably, he’s a little nervous. “Yeah, yeah. The last time here in Vegas wasn’t the best time. Got COVID, had to drive back,” he admitted. But, he was sure to add, the time before was great. And there are more positive memories than negative ones for him in the fight capital of North America.
In the meantime, “I’ve got to live by the hour, by the day. Make sure everything goes as planned,” he stated. “I can’t wait for Friday to come, make the weight, face off, I’m excited.” He’s counting the hours, Burns added. And who can blame him?
The story line heading into UFC 258 is simple: Burns and Usman are former training partners. The “former” factor is something Burns believes could come into play, in that it is Usman that left the team, Sanford MMA. “The thing I believe that I got an advantage in is the teammates. Because he left the team. All the teammates that helped me get prepared for him know him very well.” And, pointed out Burns, they gave him plenty of advice on Usman. “If it was just me and Kamaru, yeah, 50-50. I know him, he knows me. But the difference with the teammates and the coach, yeah, that gives me a little advantage I think.”
One coach Burns won’t have, however, is Henri Hooft. The Sandford MMA striking coach, head coach of Burns, has distanced himself from the fight between current and former pupils. Burns, for his part, understands the decision. “I really understand. When you coach, think about you as a coach, as a mentor, or as a father. And you make one guy so good, and then you make the other guy too, and they’re both fighting, like your kids fighting or your two best students fighting. I don’t know if I would coach anyone.”
Hooft made that “super clear” for Burns, he told Cageside Press on Thursday. “I really love Henri and I respect him so much. I respect him a lot,” he added.
Watch the full UFC 258 media day press scrum with Gilbert Burns above. The event takes place this Saturday, February 13 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.