Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, has made a drastic change ahead of his title fight against Gilbert Burns on July 11, 2020, on “Fight Island,” which is located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
According to ESPN, “The Nigerian Nightmare” has left his long-time team, Sanford MMA, in Florida and is making his way west to Denver, Colo., to train with Trevor Wittman, the man responsible for sharpening the skills of interim Lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje, former women’s Strawweight champion, Rose Namajunas, and many more.
“Florida was the base for a long time, but you grow from there,” Usman said. “We always had a ton of guys, some of the best training partners out there and some great coaches.
“But I wanted a little more specific attention at this point in my career — someone to be able to say, ‘You’re going to come in at this time and work on this particular skill,’” he continued. “It’s very tough to do that when there are 40 to 50 guys in the room with you who also need to get attention.”
Training under Henri Hooft throughout his career, Usman and Burns have spent the last several years training alongside each other, with Usman cornering a few of “Durinho’s” fights in the past.
Naturally, training together was out of the question this time around, but Usman wanted to take it a step further and completely remove himself from the team (even though Hooft decided not to coach either man for the title fight).
“Our main coach, Henri Hooft, he stepped out,” Burns told ESPN. “He said, ‘I don’t want to go either way. I don’t want to pick a side. You guys train. I’ll be here at the gym. If you want to train here, we can train. But I’m not going to the fight.’
“For me, it doesn’t change too much,” Burns continued. “It’s just a little weird to fight Kamaru. I really like the guy a lot. We’ve trained together since 2012 or 2013, so we’ve put a lot of time together.”
Winner of six in a row — including his dominant victory over Tyron Woodley at UFC on ESPN 9 — Burns earned the title fight after Jorge Masvidal couldn’t come to terms with UFC regarding a pay raise to face Usman.