Gilbert Burns opens up after emotional loss to Kamaru Usman

Gilbert Burns tells Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole that UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman may have gotten in his head ahead of their UFC 258 showdown, but is pleased with his performance despite critical errors.

Video Transcript


KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome back to Yahoo Sports, and my guest right now is the number two-rated welterweight in the world. He fought the champion, Kamaru Usman last week and he put up an unbelievable fight, was a memorable fight at UFC 258. I'm talking about Gilbert Burns. Gilbert, how are you feeling after the title fight last week?

GILBERT BURNS: I'm good. A little bit disappointed, but already seen a lot of things that that I made a mistake, and I feel a lot better right now, to be honest.

KEVIN IOLE: You said after the fight that you didn't have the discipline to stay and follow the game plan and that when you hurt him, you got excited. Since you've had a chance to watch the fight a few times, have you changed your mind about what happened?

GILBERT BURNS: Not really. Unfortunately, not really. That was exactly what happened. And I even searched so much, and I saw a lot of more things that happened. And there was a lot of emotions, you know?

It was emotions of fighting a guy that I know, to make that very personal. And make that very rival, and those face offs that didn't stop, you know? And even right before the fight, we kind of--

KEVIN IOLE: You touched gloves.

GILBERT BURNS: Yeah, it was very intense. Even before that, it was very intense, when he approached me. And those things put a lot of emotion in me. And I do believe is not a large difference from being number one, decamping, and the second place.

And I believe a lot of that difference is the ability to make the right decision on the right time under the pressure. And that's exactly what he did, and I wasn't able to do.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, he refused to touch your glove at the end of the second round. You stood there and you're going nose to nose at one point. Do you think that Kamaru, because he knew you, played mind games and tried to get you out of your game plan, and maybe try to get a rise out of you and have you fight that way, because he knew you so well?

GILBERT BURNS: Maybe. It can be. You're not the first person to ask that. But could be, if it was that, congrats. He did a freaking good job taking me out of my place.

But in order-- like I said, in order to be a champion, you got to be able to handle that better. You know? And then I'm a very emotional guy. If I care about you, I really care about you. If I don't care, I don't.

But if I care, I do care a lot about you. So you kind of-- the feeling was I got caught with that, because I thought I had it all under control, and I'll figure it out as soon as we get to the fight, there's no feelings.

But it's easier said than done. It was hard to do that. It was hard to do, especially when I hurt him, I was like OK, now I'm finishing. I'm going to finish this guy right now. And I just went to the finish and didn't got caught in the first round, because I was landing a lot of good punches.

But I was loading up a lot. And another thing that happened, too, that I don't-- I don't think a lot of people saw was at the break, I was already bleeding. So the corners-- I just had a one corner, Coach Greg Jones, and it's supposed to be Daniel.

But Greg thought that I was bleeding, so he thought Dana was coming as well. So we had the tape, the guy that does the hands, he was kind of cleaning me up. The cut man was cleaning me up.

And Greg was kind of waiting for Daniel. But Daniel couldn't come to me. And in the meantime, I know I make a couple mistakes. Instead of listening to my coach, and put my heart rate down, that's what I do every single day, I was trying to figure out what Henry, if Henry was there, what he was telling me.

Yeah, and then I was kind of thinking all that, and figuring those things out. I didn't put my heart rate down. I didn't rest properly. I didn't recover properly. I went to the second round, when I realized that I didn't put my heart rate down was even one more frustration, and became a mess.

And little things that I thought would be easy to control just went to a second level, or hard to control, and that was getting harder and harder, you know?

KEVIN IOLE: You know, you think about it. In the history of the UFC, I mean the UFC is not a sport where you run off 20, 30, 40 wins in a row like sometimes happens in boxing. You know, so guys lose. And George St. Pierre lost before he got the championship. Are you heartened by that?

By the fact that A, you went in there and you had the champion in a position where you can have finished him. Not a lot of guys get him in that spot. And then B, knowing how many other great fighters before you lost before they won?

GILBERT BURNS: In the beginning, I wasn't thinking of that. But Saturday was a mess in my head. You know, after that I realized I was so disappointed in myself. And knowing my capability, and knowing that I didn't make-- I didn't make that happen was because one thing for me as a competitor, if I go out there and I give my 100% and I lost, I'm cool with that.

But I know it didn't give my 100%. It was far away from that. But then, I look back at my career. That happened with me before, you know? I felt that pain before in the jujitsu, when I lost-- I first year as a black belt, I lost.

I didn't even medal. Second year with a second place. Third year was a third place. On the fourth year, I became a world champion. So I know that taste already. And looking on the history, I don't even-- I didn't even look at GSP the way he did.

I look at Robbie Lawler right the way he did, because he lost to-- he lost to Johnny Hendricks in 2014. Right after that, he got two wins, and I'm not sure, but I believe he was the only one that did that ever in the history. In 2014, he became a champion.

In the same year that he lost, he became a champion. And I was talking to him today. I asked him a couple questions. We had an amazing talk. And I'm in the right place. Right now, I just need to, for sure, I'm still searching. I still do a lot of small mistakes, getting like the small mistakes.

You know? Because I'm so busy, my routine is so big, and I was doing so many things, so much interviews. Now we're doing [INAUDIBLE]. And a lot of little things, sometimes those were mistakes just get passed by, you know?

But now that I'm looking back to my [? journal, ?] and to everything I saw, I was doing a lot of things that I suppose-- I should not be doing. And that took a lot of my energy, and in everything you get to play a big role in the fight.

So the way I see is I'm going to-- I'm going to make that opportunity again. I'm going to make that happen. I know GSP did. I know Robbie Lawler did. I know in the history, a lot of people did.

And I know I'm capable of doing this. So now we're just going to-- I'm going to for sure, I want to get back as quick as I can. But on the same way as safe as I can, because Robbie Lawler didn't get the TKO. I got TKO'd, you know, so I my suspension is a little bigger. So I got four or five days off suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission.

On the first, March 2, I'm seeing my doctor, Dr. [? Reed ?] for exam for MMA. He's going to come, run a couple tests, see if I'm OK. As soon as I'm OK to come back, I'm right back in there. And then I do believe Gilbert Burns performing the way I can perform, cleaning my head with with, you know, everything that I'm supposed to do, I believe I can be a champion.

I showed them it wasn't my 100%. It was not. Handed down, wasn't my 100%. And I did what nobody did. I just dropped the champ. Have him hurt a couple of times, win a round. So I'm not satisfied, but I believe I did a good thing without being at my 100%.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, you referenced it before, you know, the difference between at the highest level of the sport, the difference between winning and losing is pretty narrow. And you also had your fight with Dan Hooker it almost was like you kind of foreboding of this.

Like, you look back on that Hooker fight and you kind of made a mistake in that fight. And he was able to turn it around on you. So do you feel like, you know, when you look at the Hooker fight, and then you turn around-- your career around, of course it happened when you went up to 170, but is that a heartening sign for you the fact that you've been here before?

This isn't the first time that you not only lost, but you lost because of what you feel was a mistake on your part? And you turned it around. You feel like that makes you feel a little more confident about your future?

GILBERT BURNS: It does make me feel more comfortable about my future. But on the same time, it makes me so mad because it was a mistake that I already did. I could have made it again, because I didn't want to make that mistake. I waited for emotional, especially with Dan Hooker. And the Dan Hooker fight was kind of like little things that happened again.

Because the Dan Hooker fight, I came from my first two knockouts in the UFC, and it was both great knockouts. And I was feeling that super power, and I was coming hot. And then they said I could beat Dan-- it could be your next fight, going to be ranked, and I like that pressure.

And then I want to-- I don't want just to win. I want to make a big statement with that fight. And everyone was coming to me saying, that guy's a good striker. And then I was, I can strike, too. What do you mean? I was like-- my ego was so big that people was approaching me saying that he's good.

But I was taking that on defensive way, like what do you mean? I'm a good striker, too. You know? So my ego was too big, and that played a big role on that fight. But coming to this fight, there was a lot of things, sure. A lot of people-- people that know us both, a lot of people tell me hey, I know you're gonna win.

I know you're gonna win. And I try to-- me, as a competitive, I try to don't listen to those parts. You know? And I do believe I did a great job in the beginning, but towards the end everybody was saying that. And they kind of led, I kind of relaxed that a little bit.

For sure that play on my left play on my ego, and like you said, I feel comfortable that I for sure can give the-- come back way stronger like I did before. But in the same way, I'm a little disappointed in myself to make the same mistakes.

KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you. I talked to Trevor Whittman after the fight, Kamaru's coach. And he said something about you I want to get your reaction to. You know, he said that he anticipated, you know, you coming out fast after him. And he said because-- he thinks you're really still a 155er.

And he said you know as a 155er, he expects you to be quick. And he said speed is power, so he expected you to hit hard. So he said that they had prepared for you to race out of the corner and kind of throw that big shot at Kamaru, right? And he said that he thought like you would still be a big factor at lightweight, if you were to find at lightweight.

I want your reaction to that. I mean, you know, Trevor Wittman's a guy that, you know, he works on the UFC broadcast. Everybody I think who knows him thinks he's a really smart MMA mind. He's saying he thinks you would fit at lightweight, and he said he felt like, you know, you still would have a future there if you went there. What's your reaction to that, hearing that?

GILBERT BURNS: I think he's very smart, and very, very intelligent but I think he is wrong with that one, you know? If I weight myself right now, in shape, after that fight right now, I might be 196, 198, in shape. But if I can relax a little bit, I'm going to 205. I don't like to do that, but yeah.

Easy, I can go. But I don't like to go there. But that's my regular in shape. Lean, 196-198. I guess what's his name, Justin [? Gage ?] doesn't weigh that much, I guess.

Dan Hooker doesn't weigh that much, I guess. Dustin Poirier does a that much. I think Trevor Wittman is a very smart guy, but I don't believe I'm a lightweight anymore. And then I don't work a lot to keep that speed.

And I do believe I have a speed of a lot of guys in the power, and the ability to break the distance. But I don't see myself making 155 anymore. Just for a super fight, and then I asked for a little this, nearly six months to make that healthy, you know? Because it's not easy. It's not easy at all.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, for what it's worth before you got to the press conference, Dana was there. And I had actually asked Dana at the press conference about you. And I said-- I asked what he thought. Did he think your improvement was simply the weight, or the fact that you maybe had got a different mentality or whatever?

And he said 100% that he thought it was the weight. That he thought once you got to 170, you were fighting at the natural weight. So for whatever that's worth, Dana agrees with you.

GILBERT BURNS: Yeah, and I think Dana is a very smart guy, too, to be in the sport for so long. And that was a hard week for me. I'm not-- I'm not going to lie. That was-- I remember the last time when my nutritionist watched me cutting the weight, and my wife did, too, they both were begging me saying, please stop doing that.

That's not helpful. You know? And I remember that was when I fought Mike [? Days ?] back in April 2019, am I wrong? Yeah, here in Sunrise. And I had three pounds you go, and I did like-- if I'm not wrong, to cut that 3 pound, I did five 20 minutes hot bath rounds, five rounds of 20 minutes.

It was brutal. And then at the end, I had half pound you go, and I did 20 minutes, and the scales didn't move. And I remember UFC calling hey, you've got to come down right now, you got 10 minutes to come down. And then I was like, you know what?

Let's go in the hot bath. I was with suits on, I went with the suits on in the hot bath. And let's stay there for like seven, eight minutes. And then I rushed down, and then we tried to make the weight. And I don't know how, when it came down, I was even at 156, and I make the weight. That was the last time, and it got back to room.

KEVIN IOLE: Did you feel sick? And did you feel it was healthy for you? Like when you look back on it, I know how brutal cutting weight is. Believe me, I've seen so many guys do it. Did you feel was unhealthy for you?

GILBERT BURNS: 100% was unhealthy. 100%. And even my doctor said back then, that's killing a lot of cells for you that you're not going to be able to get that once the weight comes back, because I'm still too young.

So in the cells means a lot of life. And I'm killing that. And I'm damaging my organs and everything that I-- that I'll pay the price later. And he said, you should stop it right now. You're still too young.

And he said, and I remember him asking me, who's the strongest guy you think is at 170? And I say, right now, I think it's Kamaru Usman and Tyron Woodley. And then he said, I'm going to make you so strong, you're going to be able to fight with these guys on the same level on the strength.

And he did it. Like, I feel-- I didn't feel Kamaru very strong. He is strong, but nothing like wow. But I think it was more-- I think more mistakes not on the strength. I feel very strongly these guys ask those guys how strong I am, they're going to tell you.


GILBERT BURNS: But I think it was a lot-- it was a different mistake that I did, but not the strength, for sure.

KEVIN IOLE: Let's wrap it up here, Gilbert. I appreciate your time. Where do you go? Like, so you need to get a top fight. You're ranked number two right. Now it looks like Kamaru wants to fight Masvidal.

So that's probably what's going to happen. Colby Covington does not have anything. Leon Edwards has a fight now with Belal Muhammad. So is Colby Covington on your radar all of a sudden?

GILBERT BURNS: Always on my radar. Always. That guy-- that guy is always on my radar. So the division is crazy right now, because I kind of took a little break from that after the fight, even before the fight.

But as soon as I remember, I saw Dana saying, we want to make me where it is against Colby Covington. And that was like, I said yeah. Like, Leon deserves that fight. That's the fight to make.

And the winner is going to fight Kamaru next. And then all of a sudden, Kamaru asks for Masvidal, the guy that lost, OK. It was a six-day notice. But never fought again, and gets immediately a rematch like that?

And then Colby doesn't want to fight Leon. And I was just like, what in the world? What is going on right now in that division? And I don't know, so I guess Kamaru is going to fight Masvidal next.

I think that that's going to be next. And I saw Belal Muhammad is fighting Leon Edwards.

KEVIN IOLE: Big fight with Belal, yeah.

GILBERT BURNS: Yeah, yeah. No, great opportunity. I like-- I like those guys. I like those guys, when the opportunity shows, they I take it. I like these guys. They have so much respect.

But for me right now, if I can't take it, they say [? Brian, ?] this is on you. You pick. It's going to be Colby Covington, for sure.

KEVIN IOLE: A lot of people ask for him.

GILBERT BURNS: Yeah, but he's going to be a big fight right now. So he's the guy that-- everybody want to beat Colby. So I don't know. I don't know, to be honest right now. Right now, with Colby saying no to Leon, and Belal saying yes to Leon, and Kamaru just being asked for Masvidal, I don't know what's going on.

If I could pick, I would pick Colby Covington, but I'm-- I'm not saying no [INAUDIBLE]. I'm not saying no for [INAUDIBLE]. I'm not-- I'm right there, you now? And then I know I'd need a big win after that loss.

So I'm all for that. So who else? I hate to say that, and I don't like when people say that. But who else the UFC gives to me, I'm taking. If I can pick-- if I can pick, Colby.

But I don't know, nowadays it's not on my hands. Not in my control. So-- and I believe I'll be cleared to go end of May or June, being very relaxed, with that being very accepting my suspension, listen to the doctors. I want to hurry a little bit, but I think May or June will be a good comeback for me, good day for me.

KEVIN IOLE: Well Gilbert, you were really gracious to give me this time and talk about your fight. I know it was a disappointing night for you. You're one of the good guys in this sport, and you're one of the great fighters in the world. Congratulations on a great career so far, best of luck in the future. Thanks so much for your time.

GILBERT BURNS: Thank you, Kevin. Appreciate you.