Following a “Fight of the Year” candidate against Khamzat Chimaev this past April, Gilbert Burns was anxious to book at least one more 2022 appearance in the UFC.
That didn’t happen. Jorge Masvidal, the one-time title contender, was his opponent at UFC 281.. When that fell apart, he then turned his attention to UFC 283 so he could fight in Brazil for the first time since 2020, when he competed in an empty arena at the start of the global pandemic.
Burns finally got what he wanted, being matched against Neil Magny. But he revealed that wasn’t the first option the UFC initially offered.
“It was meant to be Masvidal, [and there was] a lot back and forth [but] he did not take the fight,” Burns stated to MMA Fighting. Belal Muhammad was offered the fight. The fight was offered to Belal Muhammad by the UFC. But he refused. Neil Magny took over and won the fight.
“For sure, I respect [Magny]. That fight was what I wanted, particularly in Brazil. I am thankful that the man stepped up to take it .”
Burns and Masvidal got into an argument over social media. But he was more annoyed that Muhammad turned down the opportunity to meet him in January.
“He was offered to fight in Brazil, and he turned it down,” Burns said of Muhammad. Crazy because he took my rank in the rankings and didn’t beat me. He declined the offer to fight. That’s another story. We might be able to see one another soon .”
Muhammad is currently riding a nine-fight undefeated streak, which includes wins over Vicente Luque, Sean Brady, Demian Maia and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.
All signs point to a trilogy of title fights between Leon Edwards, Kamaru Usman and Khamzat Chimaev in early 2023, Muhammad had previously requested a showdown against Khamzat Chimaev. But Burns doesn’t get why he didn’t take up his chance at UFC 283..
“He defeated a man in Sean Brady. All due respect to him, he is very, very talented but that fight was not my fault. Burns asked, “How the hell did he pass me in the rankings?” “I was No. 4, he beat Sean Brady, that was maybe No. 7 or 8, I don’t know what number he was at the time and he passed me in the rankings and when the fight is offered, he don’t want to fight. It was frustrating. I thought that was going to be the fight.
“We have the same manager Ali Abdelaziz. Ali called me to say that they wanted to have you against Belal. He has always taken it. But you are a fighter. If you’re not injured, if you’re not [stuck] in legal things as Colby and Masvidal, why not? It’s a little frustrating.”
Burns might have the opportunity to fight someone close to him in rankings, but for this second fight in succession he is risking his place in the division. He prefers to not avoid anyone based only on numbers.
Although a win over Magny might not be a significant boost in his rankings, Burns is just glad that someone was open to taking on the challenge even though it seems so many were unwilling.
” “It’s frustrating to be calling out those guys, having those fights offered, you say no and the other man doesn’t,” Burns complained. “The Masvidal case, I got it, there’s a lot of things going on with Colby [Covington], back and forth, court and things. He can fight, I don’t think he is, but Belal Muhammad has surpassed me in the rankings.
“He never beat me and then when the fight is on the table, he says no. It is what it is. Now the focus is on Neil Magny.”
In the long term Burns hopes to be back in contention for UFC titles. This will require him to win matches against better-ranked competitors.
That can’t be his concern right now, however, as Burns stays focused on Magny and the task at hand. After UFC 283., he’ll be dealing with Muhammad as well as everyone else in the division.
” My goal is to be a champion right now,” Burns stated. Three finishes are necessary for me to win another title shot. Three big finishes and Neil Magny’s going to be the first step. He is a formidable opponent.
“For sure, very tough, a lot of respect but I believe me getting a finish, maybe a couple more finishes, I’ll earn a title shot.”