Kamaru Usman will be defending his welterweight title Saturday night in the main event of UFC 258 against Gilbert Burns.
Ever since his UFC debut winning TUF 21 in 2015, “The Nigerian Nightmare” has been on an incomparable tear through the welterweight division, snatching the division’s crown in March of 2019 over then-champion (and all-time great welterweight) Tyron Woodley.
Burns, on the other hand, moved up to welterweight in August of 2019, defeating Alexey Kunchenko and Gunnar Nelson before year’s end.
In 2020, he defeated Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley to rise to top contender status within the division. Now Burns has primed himself for an opportunity at gold against his former teammate.
The catch? Usman and Burns were training partners under the tutelage of Henri Hooft for seven years. Obviously, these two are rather familiar with one another.
“I know him a lot; he knows me a lot,” Burns said at UFC 258 virtual media day. “There’s a little intrigue right? Because I do believe I’m gonna win, he does believe he’s gonna win, and then we’ll find out Saturday night.”
Burns also spoke about the edge he has over Usman pertaining to his coaching.
Usman left Sanford MMA in Summer of 2020 to learn under Trevor Wittman. As a result, Burns has heard plenty of advice from former teammates and coaches of Usman regarding his tendencies and weaknesses.
“I think the little advantage that I have, my teammates know him a lot too, my coaches know him a lot too,” Burns said. “His coach doesn’t know me that much. And the thing with me is I believe I’m a different animal at that [welterweight] division.”
Despite the massive amount of familiarity between the former friends and training partners, Usman is all about business, regardless of who it is that he’s facing.
Yet, he completely recognizes that Burns deserves this title shot.
“Gilbert Burns is the toughest test to date, which is why he’s fighting me right now,” Usman said. “If he wasn’t the toughest guy, he wouldn’t be in there with me. I take him very seriously, and I’m worried and focused on just him.”
It’s always really interesting when former teammates square off. While there have been some slight barbs at one another, the lead-up to UFC 258’s main event has been non-confrontational and respectful.
That ambiguity of emotional standing between Usman and Burns only adds to the anticipation of this fight.
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