Khamzat Chimaev became one of the hottest welterweight prospects in the UFC with only two appearances in July 2020, and the hype has only gotten bigger after subsequent finishes over Gerald Meerschaert and Li Jingliang.
The UFC has yet to decide who will enter the octagon next against the undefeated Chechen fighter, but No. 3 ranked welterweight Gilbert Burns is up for it.
Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, “Durinho” explained why he has mixed feelings about being approached with the idea of being Chimaev’s next dance partner.
“I don’t think I’ll fight him while he’s ranked at No. 10,” Burns said. “I think he’ll fight one more time and, [after] winning against a top-5 or top-6 [welterweight], getting closer to the top 5, I’d fight him, no problem at all. Top-10, I wouldn’t fight [him]. But that’s me fighting against myself. Top-10 doesn’t make sense, but I want to fight, so it’s complicated.
“I’ve asked to fight Neil Magny many times, who’s around No. 9, and the UFC didn’t want to give me this fight because of the ranking situation, so they won’t even offer me Khamzat because they just said they wouldn’t give me Neil Magny because of the rankings. But man, I want to fight so bad, it would be hard for me to say no to a fight.”
Burns, who rebounded from a championship defeat to Kamaru Usman with a decision victory over two-time title contender Stephen Thompson this past July, said “the UFC knows I won’t say no to a fight” and that he would ultimately agree to facing Chimaev if asked.
“It would be the fight of the night,” Burns said. “They would have to pay us pay-per-view [money] because it would be a great fight. We can stand and trade, we can grapple, we can exchange takedowns. I don’t think he’d take me down like he did [Li], but if he takes me down, that would be awesome. This fight will happen one day. Not sure if this year, but I do believe it will happen next year.”
Burns knows that Chimaev isn’t the highest-ranked option available for him, however it would be one of his biggest matchups in terms of hype.
“I think Khamzat is really tough,” Burns said. “He’s new [in the UFC] but wants to fight. I like that style, calling everybody out. He trades, has heavy hands, has sharp wrestling and grappling. The hype is on, brother, and good for him. He’s doing a great job. Who wouldn’t want that kind of hype? But I think he’s tough and is doing his part. Went there and smashed, got the mic and knows how to talk, knows how to ask for fights, knows how to tweet and talk trash. I think he’s doing a great job.”
Chimaev has demolished every single one of the opponents he’s faced so far under the UFC banner, improving to 10-0 in MMA with 10 finishes.
But Burns, who’s beaten the likes of Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, and Gunnar Nelson since moving up to welterweight in 2019, still sees a bad matchups for him in the weight class.
“I think there are many high-level wrestlers and grapplers in the division that would complicate things for him,” Burns said. “Aside from Kamaru, who’s also a very complicated fight for him, I think myself and Colby [Covington] complicate [things for] him.
“We haven’t seen him against a high-level striker in this division, someone like Vicente [Luque] and ‘Wonderboy,’ two very dangerous strikers where one hand that lands can knock you out. Judging by his wrestling, I think myself and Colby would make things very difficult for his game, and Vicente and ‘Wonderboy’ would make things hard for him on the feet.”
Chimaev or not, Burns just wants to stay active in the UFC. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace even offered to replace Paulo Costa against Marvin Vettori and Luke Rockhold opposite Sean Strickland at middleweight recently, and would be open to going up to 185 pounds down the line.
”I signed a five-fight contract for the Kamaru fight and I can’t wait to renew this contract,” Burns said. “I’ve only had the Kamaru and ‘Wonderboy’ fights and I have three fights left, they won’t renew it now. They’ll renew it after the third but most likely after the fourth fight, so I plan on renewing this contract soon. I want to burn at least two fights on this contract but it’s tough [to find fights].”