Herbert Burns got his ONE FC career off to the bets possible start with a quickfire submission win over Edward Kelly in Manila but the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) black belt faces a massive step up, at least in terms of experience, when he takes on former PXC 155-pound champion Harris Sarmiento in Malaysia in March.
The thing which immediately stands out about the ONE FC: "War of Nations" match-up, which will take place in the 145 lbs division, is the enormous gulf in experience. Burns' record stands at 2-0 while his opponent is 36-25 but the Brazilian believes it is a challenge he is ready for,
"I didn’t have any hesitation at all in taking this fight because I train with world champions in every single area of MMA at Evolve and I have confidence in my skills. I want to develop my career as an MMA fighter in every way possible and right now that means fighting more and getting as much experience possible, in order to keep learning, improving and raising my own goals and standards for myself. I don’t choose fights, I accept them."
The veteran Hawaiian was the reigning PXC 155-pound champion but relinquished the belt to sign with ONE FC and has been in with the likes of Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson in a career which began way back in 2002. Burns, by contrast, made his debut in 2012 but rejects the suggestion that it is too soon for him to step in with a fighter of Sarmiento's calibre,
"I believe that being ready is determined by a fighters mental and physical state. I would say it is too soon if my mind or body wasn’t in the right state but that’s not the case. I feel ready. The opportunity to better myself will not be presented to me perfectly. I need to create the opportunity, grasp it and execute it as perfectly possible."
With Sarmiento having fought for so many different organizations, including Strikeforce and WEC, there is plenty of footage of him and Burns says he has spent some time studying his next opponent,
"I have seen a couple of his fights. He is a well rounded fighter, he has knowledge in all areas. This is a great fight, against a great fighter with a lot of experience and a broad skill set. I am excited, it is a good fight for me. I am prepared to face him an whoever comes my way."
Burns is one of four Evolve MMA fighters competing in ONE FC's featherweight division with Bruno Pucci and Shinya Aoki also in the title mix, although the latter is likely to be defending his 155-pound title next. With the three team mates unable to fight each other only one can challenge for the 145-pound belt but the BJJ black belt does not believe this is an issue,
"It doesn't worry me. We are friends, we are team mates and we respect each other. Me, Shinya and Bruno all have the same amount of fights in the ONE FC featherweight division and it will be up to ONE FC to decide this, who they believe will be the more suitable challenger at the time."
The plus side of having so many team mates in the division, with Mitch Chilson also competing at 145 pounds, is that Burns has lots of suitable sized training partners and he says this is one of the benefits of being based at Evolve MMA in Singapore,
"It helps a lot. Training with them is good, I always develop my skills. and there is no ego on the Evolve mats. Everybody gives everything they have got, it's all about learning. There needs to be people willing to share and teach their best attributes to one another. It is not just the guys in my division, it is everyone in the Evolve fight team. I am really happy and fortunate to have these team mates."
Burns is a decorated BJJ black belt whose grappling prowess was too much for Edward Kelly at ONE FC: "Rise to Power." One statistic which stands out from Sarmiento's record is that he has been submitted nine times but the Brazilian believes that there is more to his MMA game than merely grappling,
"A fight can go many ways and I am not going into this fight as if its a grappling competition, I am going in as an MMA fight. I will create the opportunity and take the one that's best presented to me and more importantly, when I believe the time is right. Who knows, maybe I can surprise him with my striking skills."
This will be Burns' second ONE FC fight and after competing in Manila first time around he will be in action on Kuala Lumpur on March 14th. With cards being booked all over Asia there should be plenty more opportunity for the Brazilian to travel to more cities and he says is is particularly excited by the prospect of a show in Tokyo,
"So far it has been an amazing opportunity to be able to experience different parts of the world. I am really grateful and It makes competing so much more interesting and fun. I would like to have the opportunity to fight in Singapore because I have my team mates, my friends and fans there that I would love to be able to have come to see me fight live and Japan because when I was young, I was a big Pride fan, I would always watch their events, in Japan, and would dream of some day competing there as well."
Sarmiento has 66 fights but Burns has only two. It is a staggering gulf in experience but the Brazilian will be hoping to bridge it successfully at ONE FC: "War of Nations" and take a step closer to eventually challenging for the featherweight title in the process.