From a distance, it would seem as if 2013 was a roller-coaster type of year for MMA welterweight Josh Burkman. The 33-year-old capped a five-fight win streak by choking former UFC title challenger Jon Fitch out in June and made the first leap into the top-10 rankings of his decade-long career.
In his next fight, however, Burkman would go on to lose via triangle choke submission to Steve Carl, and lost his chance at the first ever World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 170-pound championship. From a distance, it would seem as though the past year or so for Burkman has been an up-and-down ride of extremes.
However, up close, talking with Burkman while he sits in his Utah home watching his wife and baby son play outside, the fighter’s year and life look a whole lot different and more even-keel. His first-born and wife have left him inside to talk, he jokes, because “there’s too much testosterone in the room.”
Burkman will try to rebound and win again when he fights Tyler Stinson on Saturday, March 29 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. The tension in himself and his home must be increasing as the fight draws nearer, but still, Burkman seems remarkably at peace.
Things really are not as chaotic for Burkman as one may have guessed, at present.
“No, not really,” Burkman tells Cagewriter when asked if his past year has felt like the roller coaster it looked like from the outside.
“When you say it, it makes a lot of sense. For me what we were talking about a few minutes ago - being a husband, being a father - those things come before anything in my life,” Burkman explains.
“As soon as my fights are over, win or lose, I go back to being a husband and a father again. That keeps me grounded. Those are my most important jobs. With regards to fighting, the win over Fitch was a high and the loss to Carl was one of the lowest of lows. It definitely created a big let-down. But I think just coming back as a husband and father … it makes it so that my life doesn’t seem like as much of a roller coaster. After beating Fitch, I got right back into the top-10 but the problem with winning all those fights in a row is that I got complacent. That’s why I have so much respect for those champs who stay at the top against top competition for so long.”
Burkman admires the focus and reliability long-time champs Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva showed during their reigns and it’s those elements that the fighter’s family clearly gives his own life. Balancing family with career isn’t a distraction for Josh Burkman.
It’s Burkman’s family that puts his career into focus. “It’s a lot but it makes it so that I’m very focused on the things I have to do,” he says.
“Everything else goes away.”
Something that not even his beloved family can take away for Burkman, however, is the result of decades of football and fight competition – serious neck and back injuries. Like many fighters, Burkman trains and fights through serious spinal disc issues.
As a result, he has his good days and his not so good days. Just as his opponent believes was the case for himself, Burkman’s last fight against Steve Carl was not one of his good days.
“Every time I go out and fight it is not necessarily with the best body,” Burkman explains.
“That’s the case for a lot of fighters. I don’t want to take away from the victory of Steve Carl. He deserved that fight. He had his own issues. Unless I go out and fix those things that went wrong, it’s all just talk and excuses anyways.”
Burkman says he’s worked hard to best prepare for Stinson – an underrated and well-rounded opponent. Burkman sees plenty of challenge in his Saturday night dance partner.
“Obviously, the first thing you think about with him is his height and the distance he can cover with that length. I’m 5-foot-10 he’s 6-foot-3,” Burkman details.
“He’s a very relaxed fighter yet sometimes he comes out very aggressive. He’ll come out and bang a little bit, too. You’ve got to respect that he’s got power in his hands. He’s a veteran.”
Burkman is quite the veteran himself. At 26-10, overall, he is closing in on 40 career MMA fights. Anything over 20 is rarified air in the sport.
“The People’s Warrior” has his sights set even higher, however. After all these years, and all the wars in the gym and ring, all that Josh Burkman says he wants to do is become as good a fighter as he can. That, and have 50 bouts.
“My main goal for MMA is to get to 50 fights, at this point,” Burkman reveals.
“That gives me three or four more years. With that time, I just want to be able to really look back on my career and say I was good as I could have been. Neck injuries caused problems but I can walk away from this sport without any regrets if I give it my all and become as good as I can be. That’s the key.
“When I’m at my best, I can compete with the best.”