This Saturday, Mads Burnell is in what can arguably be viewed as his biggest fight yet when he takes on two-time former featherweight title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 263.
Just over a week out from the fight, Burnell (15-3), who previously competed for the UFC and went on to capture gold in Cage Warriors, told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview that being in the co-main event of the massive card was “pretty cool.” In the main event, Patricio Pitbull puts his featherweight title on the line against undefeated phenom A.J. McKee, the finale of the promotion’s long-running featherweight grand prix.
It all goes down at The Forum in Los Angeles, with fans back in the building, another cool factor for Burnell. But despite the high profile fight, he’s taking it like he would any other.
“I’m feeling good. It’s just a fight like any other, there’s only me, if you know what I’m saying,” he explained. “Just go in there and do me, do what I do, and everything will be good.”
Burnell comes off as a laid back cat, and such was his approach to how the fight might play out. “If I get the finish early, cool. If I get the finish late, cool. If I get the decision, cool. But just go in there and perform,” he said when asked whether his scrap with Sanchez might go the distance.
When the fight with Sanchez was originally booked, Burnell, on a six-fight win streak, thought that “maybe this could be a title eliminator,” he admitted. Then came word of Jay-Jay Wilson and Adam Borics being paired up at Bellator 265.
“I saw Jay-Jay and Borics, and they said in the media, it was a title eliminator,” noted Burnell. “Now I have this fight in front of me. That’s what I have to focus on. What happens in the other fight, we’ll figure out after the fight. Right now, my calendar ends on July 31.”
The 27-year old from Copenhagen, Denmark loves to fight in the U.S., but as much as his calendar ends next Saturday, one topic did get him thinking past that: the idea of fighting at home, or even on a potential Irish card in the fall. Burnell is definitely interested in that possibility, and a trip to Denmark seems overdue for Bellator MMA.
After all, the nation appears to be at the onset of another wave in MMA. The sport seems to evolve that way: from Canada to Ireland, Australia to China, and the recent success of Nigerian fighters, all it takes, seemingly, is the success of one fighter to kick-start the process.
“Right now, I think Denmark is in that wave,” Burnell told Cageside Press. “Because we have me and Soren [Bak] in Bellator, Mark O. Madsen, Damir [Hadzovic], and Nicolas Dalby in the UFC, then we have another fighter named Louis Glismann in Brave, who’s doing very well. So I think we kind of have the wave right now in Danish MMA.”
That having been said, Burnell doesn’t look to his countrymen for inspiration. “I don’t need to look to other people for inspiration. It might sound a little harsh, but I have goals I want to achieve, and that’s the inspiration I have every morning I wake up, and every evening before I go to bed,” he explained.
The featherweight title in Bellator no doubt is one of those goals. Atop the Bellator 263 card sits one of the promotion’s biggest fights of all time, as Pitbull defends that title against A.J. “The Mercenary” McKee. Burnell’s pick in the fight is McKee, and in way of explanation, he pointed out that “A.J.’s so long, and he has pretty good power. Yeah, Pitbull has great power too, but I just think A.J. will get it done.”
Of course, in MMA anything can happen. Including one of those fighters dropping out of the main event last minute. Were it to be McKee, well, Patricio Pitbull has fought Emmanuel Sanchez twice already. Winning both contests. Burnell would seem like a smart pick to move up the card as an injury replacement.
“That’s true. I hadn’t even thought of that,” the Danish fighter replied when the what-if scenario was pointed out. But you can be certain Burnell will step up if it happens.
Bellator 263 takes place Saturday, July 31 at The Forum in Los Angeles, California. The main card airs live on Showtime, following prelims available right here on Cageside Press. For viewers outside Bellator’s broadcast territory, the main card will be available online as well.