Gilbert Burns is holding onto his spot in the contenders’ line.
Currently the No. 3 welterweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, Burns kept himself on track for another shot at UFC gold with a unanimous decision win over No. 5-ranked Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the UFC 264 co-main event Saturday in Las Vegas.
It was a bounce-back performance for Burns, who lost to welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in February. Following the win, Burns called out a number of notable names in his division, including Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz, and Leon Edwards.
Burns elaborated on the callouts at the post-fight presser, adding that his preference would be to face Masvidal if the money is right.
“I just took the ‘NMF’ (Nicest Mother F*cker) belt, I can take the ‘BMF’ (Baddest Mother F*cker) belt,” Burns said at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “If Leon wants, he can get it; if Nate wants, he can get it. I know I just got a title shot, I can’t ask for another title shot, I don’t believe they’re gonna give it to me, so I want to keep working. I want to keep staying disciplined, keep getting better. I need to find that balance to stay disciplined but at the same time get a finish. Just gonna keep working. Give me any one of these guys.
“The only thing is I like the Masvidal fight a lot, but he just got two losses. He make a lot of money, so [they] gotta give me an extra check to fight him. I fight Masvidal next, but put me on a pay-per-view card and I’ll fight him, it’s gonna be a crazy one.”
Burns has now won seven of his past eight fights, while Masvidal is coming off of back-to-back title fight losses to Usman.
Both Burns and Masvidal are top contenders who will need to put in more work to earn another championship opportunity. In fact, had Thompson won, he likely would have moved past both men for the next title shot. However, Burns’ jiu-jitsu expertise was on full display Saturday and he was able to solve Thompson’s tricky karate style.
“He never fought me,” Burns said when asked how he had more success wrestling than Thompson’s previous opponents. “But the secret was Jason Jackson, Bellator No. 3 in the world, he was the guy. Two guys, like I said. Raymond Daniels give me the distance and Jason defended the takedowns, they make me ready. A lot of variations, a lot of things. … All the preparation for the Kamaru fight, I think I learned so much and that got me ready. I was getting ready to fight Kamaru, it didn’t [go the way I wanted] but I was very well prepared to clinch a lot, to scramble a lot. We kept going with the preparation, for sure we changed a lot of the style, but I have that gorilla power right there.
“As soon as I get a hold of him and I was remembering the training-As soon as I get a bodylock, I was just like, ‘Man, this guy’s not as strong as Jason.’ It felt so good when you expect the guy to be a freaking monster and then you get a hold, oh he’s not the monster, that feels good.”
Burns said the most difficult part was getting close enough to Thompson to get a grip on him while also avoiding Thompson’s dangerous counters. He managed to score three successful takedowns and went on to earn scores a trio of 29-29 scores.
If he is able to string together another couple of wins and set up another fight with Usman, Burns is already thinking about what he can do differently.
“A lot of things I’ve got to change in my preparation,” Burns said. “I did a lot of mental changes. I got very angry in that fight, very emotional, and that took me out of that fight. I’ve got to stay disciplined, a little bit more technical, mistakes that I made, and I’m going to keep evolving. That’s why I want to fight and I do believe in one or two more fights we get another title shot and I don’t mind with that. Just going to keep getting better, keep disciplined, and put a lot of tools in my game.
“I just showed—A lot of guys, Johny Hendricks, Tyron Woodley, a lot of guys couldn’t take Wonderboy down the way I did. Still gonna get better and try to get a finish next time, but yeah, I’m gonna keep getting better.”