Mailbag: As Burns turns

Kevin Iole

Follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

Most fighters are nervous or have butterflies before they make their debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, even if things go perfectly normally.

Kevin Burns managed to keep his cool despite a much hairier than hoped for arrival in London when he traveled there on short notice to meet Roan Carneiro in UFC 85 on June 7, 2008.

Burns, who faces T.J. Grant on Saturday in the opening bout of UFC 107 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., left home without the papers he required to get a temporary work visa in the U.K.

British customs officials detained him for more than five hours. UFC public relations director Jennifer Wenk noticed Burns being taken to a holding cell and had herself voluntarily detained so she could help him.

Wenk ultimately helped get Burns and Jason Lambert, another fighter who had been detained, out of the rank holding cell they'd been placed in and get them on their way to the hotel to rest for their fights.

Burns, who has a black belt in taekwondo, played strong safety at the University of South Dakota and has long been an athlete and said he didn't let it affect him.

"I'm a guy now who tries to put things in perspective and take them within their realm," Burns said. "I've competed in athletics since a very young age and I learned a long time ago that if you allow your emotions to take control of you, they'll do just that. I learned basically that I needed to take things as they come. I understand that pretty much no matter what happens, there are going to be a lot of people going through a lot worse things than me. You just have to deal with what comes up and don't let it overtake you."

Burns, who still works part time at Wells Fargo Bank, managed to win Submission of the Night against Carneiro, slapping on a triangle choke in the second round.

He's looking forward to the fight against Grant, because it's the first time he hasn't either faced someone who has been a physical freak or who was far more experienced.

"Stylistically, it's a great match for me," Burns said. "I don't see any aspect of the game I can't beat him at. This is the first opponent I've had who hasn't been super super seasoned or a freak athlete like Anthony Johnson.

"T.J. has similar experience to me and he's primarily a ground guy and he likes to come forward. That's great for me, because I like to stand in front of people and put on a show for the crowd. That's what we're there for and that's what I love to do. I think T.J. does, too, so it's shaping up to be an interesting fight."

With that, let's hop right into a very busy mailbag.

Kimbo fight looked staged

What would you say to the skeptics who say that the Kimbo Slice-Houston Alexander bout on "The Ultimate Fighter Finale" Saturday was rigged so Kimbo would win? Everyone points to Alexander circling like Kalib Starnes as proof that he was there to lay down for Kimbo. I still hold to the belief that UFC president Dana White, the Fertittas and the fighters have enough love for the sport that they won't fix fights, but maybe the dollar is the bottom line. Kimbo means lots of money.
Raleigh, N.C.

The fight wasn't fixed, Ed, and anyone who suggests it was is ridiculous. There is not one shred of evidence to support the claim other than the paranoia of a small, but very vocal group of fans. Houston performed extremely poorly; of that, there can be no debate. But this is a guy who lost three UFC fights in a row and knew he was probably fighting for his job. He was clearly tense and didn't perform under the pressure, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support a fix.

Nonsense about Kimbo

How can you sit there and spew out this nonsense about Kimbo? Yes, he improved working with American Top Team. Who wouldn't? But Dana gave him a guy who normally stands and throws punches. Houston's no complete mixed martial artist. It was a way to justify not throwing away Kimbo's ignorant fan base and dollars. We all knew it was gonna happen, said it from Day 1. Slice will never be a top fighter, or even a mid-tier fighter. There's enough b.s. without stacking more on top of it, so please stop.
Stefan Delano
Yakima, Wash.

A few points: 1. Dana White is a promoter and his job is to sell tickets. Kimbo is a ticket seller. Is it a surprise he put him on? 2. He matched Kimbo with Alexander because on paper it seemed like it would be a slugfest and because Kimbo himself is just beginning. 3. I never said Kimbo would be as much as a mid-tier fighter and even said in the column there are many more guys he can't beat than those he can.

Credit to Kimbo

Your article on Kimbo Slice is 100 percent spot on. By taking Dana White up on his challenge to earn his way into the UFC via TUF, Kimbo turned a negative into a positive and earned my respect. Even if he didn't win TUF 10, by fighting and legitimately beating Huston Alexander at the TUF 10 finale, Kimbo showed that while he still has holes in his game, he's working his butt off to get better. Given the hand he was dealt, many others would have hidden into obscurity and taken the easy way out, but Kimbo "manned up" and took the bull by the horns and put in the work to legitimize himself. Even if he never wins another MMA fight, he's earned a huge personal and moral victory.
Dutch Martin
Abidjan, Ivory Coast

I totally agree, Dutch. I don't think he'll ever be more than a lower-tier fighter, but my point in the column was to praise him for the way he's handled the situation and the effort he's made in trying to improve.

Better than 99.9 percent of men?

I enjoyed your recent article on Kimbo Slice, but have one point of contention. You stated: "Kimbo Slice may never become a superstar but he's in the UFC, and that's better than 99.9 percent of the men in the world." Wow. Really? Were you trying to say that he could beat up 99.9 percent of men in the world and that is what makes him better than all of them? Or that the best of all men in the world reside in the UFC? Regardless of your intended meaning, I think you got caught up in your own hyperbole and passion for MMA. I like watching MMA (and Kimbo, for that matter), but I'm not ready to say Slice is a better man than all of the doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers, soldiers, and fathers in the world.
Joey Rios
Fremont, Calif.

I was referencing fighters. There are a lot of people who want to fight in the UFC, Joey, but Kimbo is among that small percentage who actually make it. And that's what I was lauding him for, nothing more, nothing less.

Jones-Hamill controversy

The bout between Matt Hamill and Jon Jones has to be yet another example of the referee's part in keeping fighters safe. It seemed to me that after several unanswered blows, Steve Mazzagatti should have stopped the fight. Is a fighter really "intelligently defending" himself when he balls up and takes shots for 30 seconds straight without responding? Whether it was the "12-to-6" elbows that cut him up or not, the punishment would have continued. Perhaps referees are getting a little trigger shy after all the criticism about early stoppages?
Dallas Tringali
Sacramento, Calif.

I agree the fight should have been stopped earlier. Jones landed enough hard, clean blows and Hamill was doing nothing to improve, so I thought it should have been halted before the illegal elbow was ever delivered. Mazzagatti may be reacting to public criticism, but he says it doesn't bother him. Clearly, though, I thought he blew it and deprived Jones of a deserved victory.

Why ask Hamill?

Fans are complaining once again about the way Mazzagatti handled the Hamill-Jones fight. I think he had every right to take a point away, and eventually award the fight to The Hammer. The issue I had was that after Steve took the point away, he went to check on Matt and looked at him and said, "Matt, are you OK? Can you continue?" Does he not know that Matt is deaf? Yes, he can read lips, but his eyes were covered in blood from that nasty gash on his nose. There is no way Matt understood what was going on. I believe that if he did, he would have wanted to continue (unfortunately) and Jones would have eventually won anyway. So I believe Jones should have been awarded the victory.
Lansing, Mich.

I'm sure Mazzagatti knows Hamill is deaf; but in the heat of battle, he asked the question instinctively. As I said above, I feel the fight should have been stopped before the so-called "12-to-6" elbow. But once that elbow was delivered the referee determined that the injury caused by it was too significant to allow Hamill to continue, he made the right call by disqualifying Jones.

Rogan is incorrect

Will someone please tell Joe Rogan to stop saying that UFC offers fighters a better chance to recover from a shot than boxing? He says all the time that UFC fighters can get stung and clinch, but you can't do that in boxing. Umm, no. I don't know what he's watching, but I've seen, give or take, 200 mandatory eight counts in boxing matches and exactly zero in the UFC. UFC fighters get hit, go down, the guy swarms him, and it's over in about three seconds. I know he gets paid by the UFC, but that's pretty silly Joe.
Brian Perkins
Portsmouth, Ohio

Joe's right, Brian. There is no standing eight-count in pro boxing and hasn't been for years. The only eight-count that occurs is the mandatory eight after a fighter has been knocked down. Otherwise, there is none. But his larger point, which is correct, is that MMA fighters typically don't sustain as many repeated blows to the head that boxers do.

Roy's belly beside the point

Roy Nelson has been getting a lot of grief about his big belly and how he doesn't have the "look" of a mixed martial artist. I think it's time to look past the looks and just realize the talent the "bigger belly" fighters have.
Travis S.
Norfolk, Ark.

Nelson deserves credit for his win and I think he's a good fighter, but by no means do I think he's a great fighter and that has nothing to do with his physique. His biggest fights were against Jeff Monson, Ben Rothwell and Andrei Arlovski and he was beaten by all three. On the show, he defeated four inexperienced fighters: Slice, Justin Wren, James McSweeney and Brendan Schaub. He still has much to prove, though I think he's a solid mid-level competitor.