MMA

Gilbert Burns sees Covington, Chimaev as top title contenders

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Gilbert Burns is confident he’ll be an active UFC welterweight champion and vows to wipe out each contender coming up through the rankings.

Burns (19-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC), of course, must handle the business of actually winning the title, which he’ll have the opportunity to do when he challenges Kamaru Usman (17-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC) in the main event of UFC 258 on Feb. 13 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

No one has been able to solve the riddle of Usman, but Burns is confident he’s the one to get it done, especially because he has in-depth knowledge of the champion stemming from roughly seven years of training together.

Should Burns fulfill his goal of being champion, he said there will be nowhere for 170-pound contenders to hide, because he’ll come for all of them.

“I’m just different for these guys,” Burns told MMA Junkie. “I think I’m a big threat and a big danger everywhere. If I touch you with any of my hands, you can feel it. If you try to wrestle me, I can wrestle you. If you try to grapple with me, it will be even more dangerous. I think I’m a big threat, not only for Kamaru but anyone in that division. I’m about to prove that. Then after that I believe I’m going to fight all these guys very soon.

“After Kamaru there’s Colby (Covington). After Colby there’s (Jorge) Masvidal, Leon Edwards, Khamzat Chimaev, (Stephen) ‘Wonderboy’ (Thompson), Michael Chiesa. Every single one I want to fight, and I will fight all these guys, and they will see soon how dangerous I am.”

Burns is a student of his craft and keeps tabs on all corners of the sport. He said when scouting the landscape of the 170-pound division, there are two matchups he likely sees narrowing down who will be the No. 1 contenders after UFC 258.

The main event bout between Leon Edwards (19-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) and Khamzat Chimaev (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) on March 13 is one, while the rumored pairing between former teammates Colby Covington (16-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) and Jorge Masvidal (35-14 MMA, 12-7 UFC) is the other. Ideally those fights would hold together, but Burns said it’s impossible to guess what will happen and offered advice to everyone in the division, from top to bottom.

“Times are crazy right now, (and) you cannot predict anything,” Burns said. “They might book Jorge Masvidal and Colby, and one guy pulls out, ‘Wonderboy’ gets the fight, and he’s right there, or the opposite. I think any one of those top five guys, top six they’re right there. They must stay ready and hope for the opportunity. With COVID, anyone can pull out, and anyone can get hurt, and you’re right there. If I was one of these guys out there in the top seven all the way to No. 1, I would just be ready because opportunity might come soon.”

If everything holds together according to plan, though, Burns predicted Covington to beat Masvidal and also said Chimaev, whom he considers “the real deal,” will validate himself in a big fight with Edwards.

Ultimately, though, Burns said he’s going to be open to anyone the UFC brass deems worthy, because that’s the type of champion he wants to be.

“I want to be a very active champion, and I want to be an example for hard work and a guy that will fight anyone,” Burns said. “”I think those are the next in line – Khamzat or Colby – if the fight goes (forward) and nothing gets canceled and nothing gets crazy. I think those are the guys next in line.”

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