2020 was slowly becoming a monumental year for Gilbert Burns. After scoring decisive wins over Demian Maia and former champion Tyron Woodley, the number two-ranked welterweight was slated to challenge reigning 170-pound titleholder Kamaru Usman at UFC 251 in July.
Those plans were eventually scrapped when “Durinho” tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Jorge Masvidal. As he admitted to MMA Fighting in a recent interview, seeing “Gamebred” make the walk in his stead was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I was watching that fight and I was almost in tears because when Masvidal was walking out to the fight, it was supposed to be me,” he said. “When I saw him walking, it was supposed to be me.
“I held on because my kids were here but I almost cried watching Masvidal walking in. That was my chance. It was supposed to be me.”
But as he had more time to process things, Burns is now more thankful that he didn’t push through with the fight. He did test negative after two weeks but he was still reeling from the effects of the virus until a month after it hit.
“My energy level was not normal coming back. It’s a long process. I was not at 100 percent [a month after testing positive],” Burns recalled.
“I feel better that I didn’t fight. I know that sounds weird but if I got that virus and for any reason tested negative, I was going into the fight and I wasn’t feeling good. Don’t get me wrong, even if I’m not feeling good, I’m going to fight anyway. I’m not going to pull out, especially for a title fight. I’m going to give my best. I don’t know if my best will be enough but I’ll never pull out of the fight.
“But to take me out and I got home and started getting sick, I definitely see it as a blessing.”
Three of Burns’ coaches and teammate Aung La N Sang all tested positive for the virus but displayed no symptoms. Seeing how he got the raw end of the deal, the 34-year-old Brazilian sends a message of caution.
“You can’t say it’s just for elderly [people]. Just make sure you take care of yourself, wear your mask, stay clean, don’t go out crazy. Take all the precautions,” he advises. “It’s very confusing, that virus.
“People get sick, people don’t. Just make sure to take care of yourself and respect the limits. Make sure you [distance] yourself from people and stay safe.”
Usman vs. Burns was supposed to be rescheduled for UFC 256 on December 12th. However, the company decided to postpone it for an unspecified date in early 2021.