They have been coaching companions for eight years and have shared round 200 rounds of sparring. But this Saturday evening in Las Vegas, at UFC 258 (reside and unique on RMC Sport 1 from 4 a.m. Saturday evening to Sunday), the 2 will compete for the UFC welterweight belt. Focus on the connection between Nigerian Kamaru Usman, undefeated UFC champion, and his Brazilian challenger Gilbert Burns, a friendship that surrounds their fight with query marks.
They each know. And every one is aware of the opposite is aware of. Or perhaps they know with out actually figuring out. Before ending up within the octagon this Saturday evening in Las Vegas for UFC 258, welterweight belt at stake, champion Kamaru Usman and his challenger Gilbert Burns share one factor: they know. “I like that he is so assured as this fight approaches, launched the first at a press conference. He labored for. Over the previous yr and a half, he has achieved an excellent job. I see him, I acknowledge him and I say bravo to him for that. But we each know what is going on to occur. “And the second to reply,” He knows I can submit him anywhere, anytime, in any position. He knows it and he’s going to be careful about it because he’s aware of it. He says people know who’s going to win… Oh yeah. He knows it.”
The Nigerian and the Brazilian aren’t diviners. But in the event that they play it like that, it’s as a result of their confrontation has a really particular taste. If you want rivalries pushed to their limits, the place insults fly as a lot as blows, this fight will not be for you. No animosity on one aspect or the opposite. Usman and Burns won’t ever throw chicken names at one another. They is not going to deny their previous, their friendship, mutual respect. “The Nigerian Nightmare” and “Durinho”, who made their UFC debuts 9 months aside in 2015 and 2014, have shared the identical exercises for eight years. When he moved to Florida to launch his MMA profession in 2012, Usman joined the Blackzilians workforce the place Burns was already enjoying. They then each observe Henri Hooft, their Dutch kickboxing coach, when he units up his Hard Knocks 365 fitness center – since renamed Sanford MMA – in 2017.
In all, Hooft estimates that the 2 sparred collectively “about 200 times”, “hard and crazy” classes based on Burns. We’ve even seen Usman in Burns’ nook. Enough to know one another by coronary heart and “know” even earlier than sharing the octagon. “Anyone knows what’s going to happen,” laughed Daniel Cormier, former heavy and lightweight heavyweight champion, on DC & Helwani on ESPN +. Rashad Evans knew that. When he confronted Jon Jones, he knew it. I knew it too! I knew it! That’s why I did not do it. I used to be like, ‘I can not beat this man!’ Especially as we talked about it. I can not beat Cain Velasquez! ” “DC” refers to the fight between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans, former training partners turned best enemies, for the light heavyweight belt at UFC 145 in April 2012. And his refusal to step up to the heavyweight for his training partner Cain Velasquez when the latter was champion of the category.
“I damage him, he damage me”
According to him, facing a former or current teammate gives a psychological advantage to the one who used to dominate the other. What do the interested parties think? “We educated so many hours collectively, remembers Burns for MMA Fighting. We had just a few wars. I damage him just a few instances, he damage me just a few instances. I do know lots about him and he is aware of lots about me. I do not know if it is good or unhealthy to know this man as a lot as I do know him. I exploit what I learn about him for my technique but it surely’s the identical for him so it is laborious to say if it advantages me or not. I feel he’s as a result of I understand how prepared I’ve to be for him and I work for it. But him too. I do not know if it helps that a lot. We’ll discover out quickly. “
Usman makes the same observation. But specifies that there is no more friendship that counts once the cage is closed. “It’s actually totally different since you felt it, explains welterweight champion to MMA Fighting. You know the issues you’ve got a bonus over they usually know them too. You know what they’re good at. It makes issues a little totally different. But so far as I’m involved, I do not see any face. I’m sitting on high of the mountain. It was he who needed this fight. These are the fellows who say to themselves: ‘We need what he has, we need to take his plate and eat his meals’. If you need what has, I need to defend it. I’ve to go present them why I’m on the high. Each time I’ve to be the identical savage who involves defend what he has. It’s totally different in a approach, sure, however after they get within the cage, they’re all the identical to me. “
The UFC pulled a trailer from it with the evocative title: “It’s not private, it is enterprise”. With all this, the duel between the Nigerian wrestler and the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist was already fascinating. A recreation of chess the place you marvel how every will use their data of the opposite, the place none want to check the video to arrange their recreation plan. It is much more so since final June, when Usman left Sanford, Hooft and Burns to hitch Colorado and coach Trevor Wittman, who takes care of Rose Namajunas and Justin Gaethje. Burns as soon as joked that he ought to put together for a fight in opposition to Usman… by separating Usman. This finally is not going to have been the case. Weeks earlier, Burns had overwhelmed former champion Tyron Woodley – from whom Usman took the belt in March 2019 – and positioned himself as a challenger for his belt.
With a fight scheduled for July 12, then canceled on account of a constructive Covid-19 for the Brazilian and rescheduled in December earlier than a brand new cancellation, the primary Nigerian champion within the UFC – Israel Adesanya was after him – had chosen to maneuver away to higher put together for the fratricidal shock. “I had come to a point where I needed certain things in order to be able to grow taller, he admits. Over time, I felt I needed a little more. It’s hard to have That’s when you’re on a team where there are thirty fighters and your coaches leave almost every week from the middle of the week. It makes it difficult to get the personal attention you need to stay on top. end, I didn’t feel like I had that 100%. There are other underlying things that happened that I don’t want to talk about now, that helped push towards this decision sooner and faster but it was something I wanted for a long time. “
Real fight, real stakes
He says he found happiness in Wittman, who praises “his work ethic and his humility” (he does not hesitate to seek advice from Namajunas and Gaethje) and evokes “an already strong relationship with him”. And with all the setbacks, he was able to work (and evolve) a few more months with his new coach before the reunion in the octagon. The plot grows: will the UFC 258 version Kamaru be any different from the Usman that Burns was used to sparring with? Jorge Santiago, Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach at Wittman, says “Usman is a whole different fighter.” But Burns knows him better than anyone, or almost anyone, and vice versa for that matter, and won’t be completely surprised anyway. Both have spent time making each other better and will now face the outcome. But for the first time, they will face each other in a real fight with real stakes.
So who can best adapt their strategy? Who will benefit from the past? In Burns, who has been able to rely on a room where everyone knows Usman’s strengths and weaknesses? “That’s the thing I think I have an advantage over, replied the person concerned. He left the team but all the teammates who helped me prepare for this fight know him very well and everyone could tell me things like, ‘Oh, he’s doing this well, be careful about that’ or ‘You’re going to touch him with that.’ Their advice was really good, so was the coaches. If it was just between Kamaru and me, yeah, it would be 50-50, I know him and he knows me. But the difference with the teammates and the coaches gives me a little advantage. “
To Usman who has been able to prepare differently in recent months but who knows how Burns works at Sanford (and who may still have moles there to fill him in)? “I think that’s a huge advantage, Wittman replies on the UFC website. Burns stayed on the same team so Kamaru knows him well. But Burns doesn’t know the Kamaru from the past year. It’s a different Kamaru. I don’t take any credit for making Kamaru a champion but I do take credit for making him even better and filling the holes that were left. We want to show that he has become a different animal. “Henri Hooft did not coach Burns for this fight and will not be in his corner. Given his past with the two, he prefers to remain neutral and pay tribute to them on Instagram: “I’m proud to see two of my guys at the top of their game. (…) I know that the best will win but for me they are both winners. “However, we will need one. Which will undoubtedly have to avoid a pitfall: focusing too much on the opponent because we know him too well.
“It’s a little weird because I don’t really want to go to the coach and say, ‘What do you think?’ I don’t want to do that, explains the Brazilian. It’s not me. I want to focus on my techniques, on what I can do, and improve them. I don’t want to focus too much on Kamaru. focus on me. ” Burns, with a more devastating punch and who says he has “progressed everywhere” since the departure of his friend, will he find the key to bringing down a dominant champion and still undefeated in the UFC (in case of victory he would surpass the legend? Georges St-Pierre for the best series of welterweight victories in the organization)? He admits that it won’t be easy, because he knows better than anyone who is in front, but relies on what separates him to grab the belt: “Kamaru seeks first to dominate his opponent. He wants to dominate you, get you in trouble, tire you out and then hurt you. I’m different from him. I want to finish you, I want to hurt you, knock you out, submit you. If I can’t, then I think about dominating. But I am thinking of finishing first. “
“We ignored all that”
On the other side, will Usman have the formula to dismiss the one he knows so well? And will he be as motivated to hurt a friend as facing the disrespectful Colby Covington or against the lodger Jorge Masvidal, the fighters beaten for his first two defenses of the title? “Facing a former teammate doesn’t give Kamaru any extra motivation, not even a little,” Wittman says. “We put that apart. I frolicked in order that Kamaru did not see Burns as a former teammate and pal. . Burns ‘purpose is to take no matter Kamaru labored so laborious for and if I feel they’ll stay friends after the fight, Kamaru should finish Burns’ title aspirations. ” The fight is much less “seller” than others however hits the highest of the sports activities basket. He is tremendous intriguing, above all. We’ve understood why.