At UFC 258 this weekend, former Sanford MMA teammates Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns square off the UFC welterweight championship.
Number one contender Burns has spent plenty of hours in the gym sparring 170-pound king Usman over the years. The Brazilian says the pair have spent “over 200 rounds” competing with “The Nigerian Nightmare” inside the confines of the gym.
The 2011 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion has shown an improved striking game in his blistering performances he put on display in 2020 to earn his title shot, but it’s his submission skills that “Durinho” believes could be the key to victory. In fact, he also believes Usman is well aware of the fact that Burns could submit him.
“I know I can submit him anytime, anywhere, in the bottom, in the top, anywhere,” Burns told reporters during the UFC 258 media day scrum. [H/T MMA Junkie] “He knows I can submit him. He might watch out for this because he knows. He said, ‘Oh people know who’s going to win,’ but he knows too, he knows.”
When Burns became a top-level threat to Usman’s crown, the latter left Sanford MMA to train under Trevor Wittman in Colorado to avoid sharing coaches and training partners – as well as any awkwardness – in Florida.
Both men have been fairly respectful to one another in the build up to the fight. Talking about what went on in training sessions behind closed doors is usually a taboo in combat sports, but Usman appeared unperturbed at Burns’ comments, his grappling abilities or any other attempts at mental warfare ahead of their contest this weekend.
“I’m just better,” Usman said during his scrum at the UFC 258 media day. [H/T MMA News] “I’ve said it before. When I won the title and I said it, I let the world know I might not be the best boxer in the game. I might not be the best Jiu Jitsu player in the game. I might not be the best kickboxer or karate guy in the game, but when it comes to mixing it up, I’m the best in the world, and that’s why I’m the champion.
“Who can argue that Demian Maia is the most dangerous submission expert we’ve ever seen in the sport. And Demian took Gilbert down. Had him in trouble a little bit. How was that with me?” Usman continued. “So yeah, of course, he has those accolades. Yeah, in a submission match, could he potentially submit me? Yes, of course. So can Demian Maia. So can probably Sergio Moraes. But we all saw how those all went.”
Usman seeks to defend his UFC welterweight title for the third time on Saturday night at UFC 258. The Nigerian-American is unbeaten in 16 fights and has defeated Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal in convincing fashion since winning his gold against Tyron Woodley in early 2019.
But in Burns, Usman has a test on his hands. The Brazilian returned to the welterweight division in 2019 and has posted four wins since, notching victories over Alexey Kunchenko, Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia and the aforementioned Woodley.