Dana White promised Gilbert Burns a title shot. So why is he fighting Belal Muhammad at UFC 288?

Dana White promised Gilbert Burns a title shot. So why is he fighting Belal Muhammad at UFC 288?

MORRISTOWN, N.J. – Just five months into 2023, Gilbert Burns is already gearing up for his third fight of the year.

Despite being promised a backup role for the expected UFC welterweight title bout between Leon Edwards and Colby Covington, which would eventually lead to a title shot, Burns accepted a fight against fellow contender Belal Muhammad.

The two meet this Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 288, which takes place at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN/ESPN+.

Scroll to continue with content

With the support of UFC president Dana White and just a couple of weeks’ notice to fight a streaking contender, it seemed Burns (22-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) had all the incentive to wait for his opportunity at the belt. And yet, he chose to fight.


“Leon Edwards gave an interview saying he’s injured, and he’s not looking to fight right now and just fight in October, and that’s when the first time I said, ‘OK, I have to fight,'” Burns told reporters, including MMA Junkie, during Wednesday’s UFC 288 media day when asked about the reason he accepted the fight against Muhammad. “Then a couple of days after, I saw Charles Oliveira pulled out (of UFC 288), and I saw an opportunity there, but I was just thinking, ‘Who?'”

Burns asked for Covington but immediately was told that wasn’t an option, given White already determined that Covington is next in line for the champion. That’s when the UFC offered something else that caught Burn’s eye.


“Sean Shelby hit me up and said, ‘We don’t have Colby. He’s not available. He’s going to fight for the title, but we have Belal Muhammad,'” Burns recalled. “And I said, ‘Done.'”


Jorge Masvidal: Gilbert Burns has more power, but Belal Muhammad cleaner boxing at UFC 288

Belal Muhammad: Gilbert Burns 'doesn't know what I'm gonna bring to the table' at UFC 288

Gilbert Burns vows to finish Belal Muhammad at UFC 288: 'No way he's going 25 minutes with me'

According to “Durinho,” the UFC said the winner of his fight with Muhammad (22-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC), who’s on an eight-fight unbeaten streak, is certain to be the next challenger to take on the winner of Edwards vs. Covington.


“They guaranteed us both,” Burns said. “If Belal Muhamad wins, he’s next. If I win, I’m next.”

So Burns could still get the title shot he wants. He just needs one more win to secure it.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 288.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie