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Gilbert Burns explains decision to fight Belal Muhammad at UFC 288: ‘I didn’t want to sit and wait’

As part of a last-minute shake up, Burns will be fighting Muhammad on May 6, 2023, in Newark, N.J., in UFC 288’s co-main event.

UFC 287 Ceremonial Weigh-in Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After defeating Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287 earlier this month, Gilbert Burns had a serious message for UFC: he wanted a title shot next ... or he wanted to be released from the company. Two weeks later, and Burns has been booked to fight Belal Muhammad as a last-minute addition to UFC 288 on May 6, 2023.

So what happened? Well, in a new interview with Submission Radio, “Durinho” explained the sudden change.

“I didn’t want to sit down and wait, especially having Belal Muhammad racing with me to get the title shot,” Burns said. “And I heard Kamaru wants to fight. Maybe Shavkat wants a fight. And I just think, if Belal fights Kamaru or he fights Shavkat, it doesn’t matter who wins, this guy has another opportunity to get a title shot on top of me. So, I didn’t feel comfortable to sit out and wait.

LIVE! Watch UFC 289 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

OCTAGON RETURNS TO THE GREAT WHITE NORTH! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Canada for the first time in almost four years when it hosts UFC 289 inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sat., June 10, 2023. In UFC 289’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, women’s Bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, will lock horns with No. 5-ranked 135-pound contender, Irene Aldana, while former Lightweight kingpin and current No. 1-seeded contender, Charles Oliveira, battles No. 4-ranked Beneil Dariush in the co-feature with 155-pound title implications on the line.

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“Whenever I saw the interview that Leon said [he needs more time], I already [thought], okay, I’m gonna fight,” he continued. “I don’t care. And whenever I saw a spot, a co-main event available, I just start putting the word out there. And then it took a little while, but now the fight is on.”

It’s important to note that the Burns vs. Muhammad fight came with a 170-pound title shot guarantee.

“100 percent I said that [I want a title shot] — 1,000 percent I said that,” Burns said. “And they said, ‘You got it. You or him, whoever wins is gonna be the next.’ It’s even a great opportunity for the guy, too, because I was kinda the next one in line after Colby. And now, just because it could go south if I sit out and wait, this guy might get a win. And now it’s the best-case scenario for both guys. Whoever wins takes the title shot. So, it’s all win. We kinda gambled a little bit, but I’m in great shape.”

Burns is also still willing to be the backup fighter whenever current Welterweight champion, Leon Edwards, and Colby Covington fight.

“For sure, for sure, I’ll be the backup,” he said. “Because a lot of things can happen. A lot of things can happen in this sport. It’s a crazy sport. I remember I was fighting for the title. I had an amazing training camp. I was going to Abu Dhabi, flew to Vegas, and then I test positive for Covid. Then they called Masvidal. Masvidal got the title shot on seven days’ notice.

“Why not be ready?” he concluded. “Why not just train a little more? And like I said, I’m changing my whole lifestyle. I’m feeling good. Why not just get five weeks, six weeks a little harder? You know, training for specific guy, study him a little bit, go out there and make weight? You know, if the opportunity comes, I’ll be ready. If you not, I take a little time off, rest up and go to the next fight. For sure, if everything goes good on my way May 6th, I’ll be the backup.”

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 288 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 288: “Sterling vs. Cejudo” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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