Gilbert Burns is enthralled by the prospect of hitting with Stephen Thompson at UFC 264.
Does this suggest that Burns (19-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) can just want to stand with Thompson (16-4-1 MMA, 11-4-1 UFC) in their high-stakes welterweight bout in July? No, it is not. However, he mentioned that he is preparing to do so if possible, even taking a secret arm into his training camp.
“It's going to be a bit different because here at Sanford, we have too many potential, so (many) guys who will support each other,” Burns told MMA Junkie. “For the battle against (Tyron) Woodley, we have a lot of guys with identical styles. It was a bit of a puzzle for (Kamaru) Usman, but we have a lot of wrestlers on our team. We don't have a lot of karate students. The only difference is that I'm taking a pair of karate guys who know the theme.
“I can't tell who he is, but he's going to be the secret to this war. He has the ability to improve upon the style. So I'm going to try to carry a couple of karate guys just to get used to the size, the pacing, and the design. The only distinction is that I'll be bringing in guys from outside the camp.”
UFC 264 Live Free takes place on July 10 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.
Burns will make his comeback to the octagon after losing his championship battle against Usman at UFC 258 in February. In the bout, he was defeated by TKO in the third round, ending his six-fight winning run.
He's trying to rebound for a second title shot, and facing a proven and highly rated challenger like Thompson is a decent place to go.
The Brazilian said he was ready for every big name at 170 pounds, but he really likes this matchup because it allows him to avenge a defeat for his good friend and training partner Vicente Luque, who lost to Thompson at UFC 244 in November 2019.
“It was given to a number of guys, to all of the top five guys, except Usman and Masvidal,” Burns said. “However, it was given to all the other men. He was the only one who said yes. I want it. I believe he is a really strong foe, and I know him well because I was cornering Vicente Luque when he defeated Luque, and I really want to avenge my pal. It's going to be a nice one.”
Thompson has a history of being one of the most difficult mysteries to crack in the welterweight category. He is barely thwarted and scores much more frequently than he loses. His karate-based attacking technique confuses numerous rivals, and Burns, 34, enjoys the prospect of putting himself to the test.
“I like the challenge,” Burns said. “For sure, I'm going to hold my jiu-jitsu as crisp as possible....” My jiu-jitsu is on point, but I've got a few new toys and I want to participate in that game as well. I believe he possesses high-level strike capacity. I don't remember. In that war, I'm going to be ready for a number of things.”
If Burns wins at UFC 264, he will be back on track with his weight division. Most signs lead to Colby Covington having the next championship battle with Usman, and in the meantime, Burns plans to do his own thing and pile up wins so he can get back in that spot.
“To be frank, I think (beat) ‘Wonderboy' and then one more,” Burns said. “I'm not really worrying that hard. I'm just thinking 'Wonderboy' fight: do my best. (It's) a fantastic challenge, and then we'll see. “I guess there will be one more fight.”