Herbert Burns is on a fast track to a ONE FC title shot. The Brazilian is taking on increasingly tougher competition and if he wins in Dubai his next fight could very well be against the reigning 145-pound champion.
We wouldn’t normally be talking about a featherweight with only three fights to his name potentially challenging for a major belt, but since signing with ONE FC, Burns’ career trajectory has been steep.
He stepped up on short notice to take on the previously undefeated Edward Kelly and swiftly submitted an opponent who was 5-0 going into that fight. Burns followed that up with a hard-fought decision over former PXC 155-pound champion Harris Sarmiento, who was a veteran of over 60 professional MMA matches.
At ONE FC: Reign of Champion on Aug. 29, Burns will be facing 10-1 Japanese featherweight Hiroshige Tanaka, a Shooto veteran who is currently riding a seven-fight winning streak.
It’s another massive step up in terms of opposition, but the Brazilian believes he knows exactly what to expect at the World Trade Centre in Dubai.
“I saw a couple of his fights and he is a very powerful striker, a southpaw who is always looking for the right hook. He is tough, has had a lot of experience and has knockout power.”
On paper, Tanaka looks set to be the toughest test so far for Burns, but he believes the three rounds he spent inside the cage with Sarmiento were the perfect preparation.
“That win definitely gave me a lot of confidence because I was the underdog and he was a lightweight champion who had just moved down to featherweight and had over 60 fights. Everyone was questioning if it was a mismatch, but I got to prove my abilities as a striker and I showed that day that I am not just a BJJ fighter, but an-all rounded MMA fighter.”
The vastly experienced Sarmiento did not have as impressive of a win ratio as Tanaka does, but Burns does not think this means the Japanese featherweight is necessarily the superior fighter.
“It is hard to say. For example, Sarmiento had much more experience, but Tanaka has more knockout power and is a southpaw. It is an entirely new challenge that I am training hard for.”
When Burns joined Evolve MMA in Singapore last year, he was an unheralded fighter who only had one win to his name, a 25-second submission victory against an 0-7 opponent. With a BJJ black belt, he was far from being a complete novice, but he says behind his increasingly impressive recent results have been hours of painstaking preparation.
“Evolve MMA is the number one gym in Asia, we have the best team and I have world champion coaches and training partners. I am very confident about my MMA game and it has improved tons since working with Evolve. My transitions are more natural, my striking in general has improved so much, and I feel like a much more improved and well rounded fighter since coming to Singapore to be a part of Evolve.”
At present, Eric Kelly is penciled in to face reigning featherweight king Koji Oishi at ONE FC: Reign of Champions, while Jadamba Naruntungalag is also in the mix after an impressive debut, but there is no question that Burns is a contender.
If he can become only the second man to defeat Tanaka and snap the Shooto veteran’s seven-fight winning streak then a title shot could beckon, and Burns believes that if he puts in an emphatic enough performance his next bout could well be for a belt.
“If I win in a very impressive way then I would say I am definitely ready for a title shot. I see myself as one of the top contenders in the ONE FC featherweight division and I plan to prove that in Dubai.”
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