One might think fighting a former teammate of eight years could be problematic in a title fight, but reigning UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman has no problem defending his title against ex-Sanford MMA sparring partner Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.
Despite having sparred over 200 rounds with Burns, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ says he will see ‘no face’ on his opponent when the cage door closes on Feb. 13 and that it will be an entirely impersonal affair.
“I will say it’s definitely different because you’ve felt them. You know the areas where you kind of had the upper hand and they know that as well,” Usman, who left Sanford MMA to train with veteran coach Trevor Wittman in late 2020, told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. “You know the areas where they’re strong. So it makes it a little different. At the end of the day with me, when it comes to me, I see no face. I didn’t pick him out of a line up and say ‘this is the guy I’m going to take out.’
“I’m the king of the hill. I’m sitting up at the top. He’s the one who picked the fight. These are the guys who say ‘we want what he has.’ So when you want what I have, I have to defend that. I have to go in there and show them why I’m sitting at the top.”
“It’s a little different in a sense but at the same time, I see no face. When we get in there, they’re all the same.”
Usman intends to shake hands with Burns after the fight but won’t feel insulted if ‘Durinho’ doesn’t return the favor.
“That depends on him and how they take it,” he said. “I see no face when I step in there so it depends on how they take it. Jorge Masvidal stepped up, he took his loss and he took it like a man and he shook hands and we went about our business. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen again but it all depends on how they take it.
“If [Burns] takes it well, it is what it is, but if he doesn’t, it also it is what it is. I’m walking out there with my hand raised.”
UFC 258: Usman vs. Burns takes places this Saturday, Feb. 13 at the UFC Apex Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.