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Burns hoping for top-6 ranking with win over Maia: It’s ‘hard job with big reward’

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Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Gilbert Burns expects a hard fight against fellow black belt Demian Maia.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Copenhagen-Nelson vs Burns Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Gilbert Burns knows how high the stakes will be when he takes on fellow black belt Demian Maia at UFC on ESPN+ 28 in Brasilia, Brazil, in March. And ‘Durinho’ feels he is up to the challenge, expecting that a sound win would catapult him into the upper echelon of the UFC’s welterweight division.

In an interview with Ag Fight, the Hard Knocks 365 fighter revealed he expects the crowd to be against him, even though both men are Brazilians—just because Maia is such a big fan favorite in the country. And while he’s focused on getting the win, he’d like to make sure it’s clean and clear.

“A win puts me on the top of the division, but it’s not such a simple task. It’s Demian, a high-level guy, very seasoned. It’s a hard job, but with a big reward. A dominant win puts you in a good place. A boring win is still a win, but a dominant win can put me in the top 6.”

Although Burns has been calling out everyone who needed an opponent ever since he moved back up to the welterweight division, he confesses that Maia was never a fight on his radar. At least, not until UFC matchmaker Sean Selby offered him the bout, which he promptly accepted.

“It was a long process. I had been asking to fight by the end of last year and they were telling me they would give me a ranked guy for my next fight. When Kamaru fought (at UFC 245), Sean Selby told me he wanted me to fight Demian, which took me by surprise. When I met Demian at UFC Sao Paulo, I asked to train with him, but it never happened, I didn’t even get his number. His manager said that fight didn’t interest him, but it seemed the UFC wanted it. It makes sense only because of the rankings. When they offered me, I accepted.”

Undefeated ever since moving back up to welterweight, Gilbert Burns (17-3) bested both Alexey Kunchenko and Gunnar Nelson via unanimous decision in his last two outings. Those, coupled with lightweight wins over Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Mike Davis before the change, put Durinho on a four-fight winning streak. The 33-year-old’s last loss came in July 2018, when he was knocked out by Dan Hooker.

UFC Fight Night 170 is set for March 14th at the Ginasio Nilson Nelson in Brasilia. While no main event or bout order has been announced, the event is expected to feature Paige VanZant’s return to the strawweight division—as well as a light heavyweight bout between Johnny Walker and Nikita Krylov. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and updates.