It has been six long years for Josh Burkman since he last fought for UFC, but that all changed on Friday (Oct. 3, 2014) when he re-signed with the promotion. "The Peoples Warrior" was released from his World Series of Fighting (WSOF) contract on Friday morning and signed on the dotted line to fight Hector Lombard at UFC 182, which takes place on Jan. 3, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Burkman actually asked for his WSOF release back in April, and it got pretty ugly, but things eventually smoothed over and he re-signed with the promotion. Once an opportunity arose to head back to the world's biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, WSOF let Burkman out of his contract and gave him their blessing.
"It was really interesting," said Burkman, who was driving from Las Vegas back home to his family in Salt Lake City, Utah. "I came out here to train for a fight against Steve Carl for November 15th. Things happened with that fight. Shawn Lampman, one of the executives of WSOF, said that Carl didn't want to accept the fight for whatever reason and we just got into conversation. He knows that we are in the middle of building a house, and my wife is pregnant. Sean said, 'You've been really good to WSOF and you've worked hard and I know you have a good opportunity to fight in the UFC and I don't want to keep you from that.'"
"I talked to Ali (Abdel-Aziz) and he kind of helped me with the move. Ray Sefo was super cool about it and they knew this was a good thing for me and my family and it was an amazing opportunity and they released me this morning. I went to practice at Xtreme Couture and after practice I looked at my phone and it was Dana. He had called and texted and said 'Hey Josh it's Dana, lets talk.' I told him 'I'm changing my clothes. I'm at Xtreme Couture and I'll call when I have a chance.' He said to just come over to the office. We sat down and did some catching up and we talked the terms and made it happen, very easy."
Right after he agreed to terms, he found out the UFC president already had his next opponent picked.
"Dana looked at me and said 'I have an opponent for you' and I said 'Who?'" said Burkman, who went 5-5 in his first UFC tenure. "He said 'Hector Lombard' and I said 'Absolutely.' That has always been my mentality. I want to fight the best. I want to compete at the highest level and this fight with Hector Lombard gives me the opportunity to prove where I'm at as a mixed martial artist."
Since being released from UFC after a loss to Pete Sell at UFC 90, Burkman has gone 9-2 overall with a 4-1 record in WSOF, which included a huge highlight-reel victory over Jon Fitch. Meanwhile, Lombard, the former Bellator middleweight champion, has gone 3-2 inside the Octagon and is now 2-0 since dropping to welterweight and ranked No. 6 in the division.
Burkman does not see the three-round battle going the distance.
"I think it's going to be very explosive," said Burkman. "I think we are both very calm fighters and pick our time to explode and I think that is going to make for a very exciting fight. I would be very surprised if this fight went to a decision. I don't see any of us playing it safe."
A former contestant on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Burkman said "timing is everything." It took him only two years to get to UFC in the beginning of his career and he feels he "took if for granted the first time around." He worked hard the last six years to get back to where he now stands and is ready to do some damage among the rest of the division.
"Over the last couple of years I felt like 'Why am I not there? Why am I not back?' The whole time I felt like I would get back into the UFC and I would be able to compete against the best in the world. It's just timing. The trials, and the things that I've been through to work my way back have forged me into the man I am today and I think I am very up for this task and making a run in the UFC."
"I feel like I'm home. I was there for The Ultimate Fighter one and two and I really feel like I get a chance to go home and finish out my career there hopefully. I appreciate this whole journey and I just hope to entertain everybody."