Burns, who’s on a six-fight winning streak, was given the title shot after Jorge Masvidal was ruled out of UFC 251 amid a financial dispute with the promotion. When a positive COVID-19 test ruled him out of the fight, Masvidal reached a new deal and stepped in to fight the champ, who defeated him via unanimous decision.
A second bout was targeted for UFC 256 on Dec. 12, but the matchup was scuttled because the champ reportedly needed more time to recover from nagging injuries. Kamaru and Burns are former training partners at the now-defunct Blackzilians MMA and Sanford MMA. After Burns became a title contender, Kamaru moved to Colorado to work with renowned coach Trevor Wittman.
Kamaru Usman opens up on his fight against Masvidal at UFC 251
Usman (17-1) is scheduled to make his third title defense next month, against Gilbert Burns (19-3) at UFC 258 on Feb. 13 in Las Vegas. The matchup was originally supposed to take place at UFC 251 in July however, Burns withdrew at the last minute due to a positive COVID-19 test and was replaced by Masvidal on six days’ notice.
Shortly after Kamaru defeated Masvidal via unanimous decision, ESPN reported the champion had been placed on a 180-day medical suspension for a potentially broken nose. The news was surprising, in that Usman did not appear to take much damage in the five-round fight. In an interview this week, Usman revealed he suffered the injury before the fight.
“Two weeks before, shattered,” Usman told ESPN. “A lot of people haven’t dealt with a broken nose. When anything comes close to your face, you’re trying to defend and not get that nose hit. There are a couple of guys here [in Usman’s camp in Denver] who hit pretty hard. We can blame that one on Carrington Banks and Justin Gaethje.”
Usman’s performance against Masvidal was met with some criticism, as he leaned heavily on his amateur wrestling background to neutralize Masvidal’s offense. Usman said he was frustrated by the performance because he didn’t get to show anything he had worked on.
“I was unhappy because as much as I put into preparing for fights, I was just on autopilot that fight,” Usman said. “A lot of things played a factor in that fight. … I’m way better than that. I have way more tools and skills to display than what I showed because out there, I beat him with stuff I’ve been doing for five years.
“It’s me versus me out there. So, there’s a potential of that fight happening again if he works himself there, but I want to do it again because I want to put an exclamation on it. I want to finish him. I want to impress myself.”
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