by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
The comeback trail is tough for any fighter who has been in the UFC for several bouts, then released and trying to work his way back. Josh Burkman is making that effort after struggling in a few fights, while dealing with some serious neck and back issues that have finally been resolved, and he’s ready to get back to the top.

Moving into the UFC after the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, Burkman found success while fighting in the Octagon, but suffered losses to Mike Swick and Dustin Hazelett before exiting the promotion in 2008. Now healthy for the first time in years, he’s one fight back into his return and ready for a second bout to help him get ready for a move back to the UFC.

After defeating Brandon Melendez by knockout last November, Burkman is now set to face Jake Paul in a catchweight fight at 176 pounds in Utah on April 9 in Showdown Fights. Burkman spoke to MMAWeekly.com about his opponent, who has already started to talk about building his name off of “The People’s Warrior.”

“This kid Jake Paul, he’s a Gladiator champion, won four fights in a row, and runs his mouth a lot so I’m excited about the fight,” said Burkman. “He says I’m a prima donna, and I’m like come on bro, you have a Mohawk and it’s dyed blonde, and you’re going to call me a prima donna? Let’s be honest.

“He said in his interview that Burkman’s on his way down, and I’m on my way up. If this dude thinks he’s on his way up, and I’m on my way down, it’s going to be a deadly mistake.”

Burkman knows that every fight is a tough test, and he’s not looking past Paul, but he also understands that he needs to take some warm-up fights before making the call to Joe Silva to ready himself for a return to the UFC.

“It’s like a pitcher coming back after he gets arm surgery. He doesn’t come and try to throw against (Albert) Pujols and all those dudes, he goes to Triple A, and makes sure he’s alright,” Burkman said. “That’s kind of where I’m at.”

There’s only one place he wants to call home when he’s ready to return to the big leagues and for Burkman that’s the UFC. He says he’s always maintained a great relationship with UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva, and will work his way back there when he’s ready.

“My plan is to go back to the UFC for sure,” said Burkman. “I’m fine with taking four or five fights outside the UFC and fighting here. It’s a cool experience cause I had it taken away from me because of the injuries, and losing the three fights in a row.

“When I’m ready I’ll get the opportunity to go back.”

The next test for Burkman’s comeback is the match-up against Jake Paul in Utah on April 9.