“That's a good question,” laughs Gilbert Burns when asked how many times he’s competed in 2019.
There are obviously the UFC fights against Mike Davis and Aleksei Kunchenko. But there’s also the combat grappling match with Gleison Tibau in March, the Miami Open in May, and a June grappling match, as well.
Get the idea that in a world where everyone says they’ll compete anytime, anywhere, Burns actually does it?
“It's not gonna last forever,” he said. “I've been training my whole life and I like to test myself. It's an infinity quest - I'm looking to be better, to improve, to stay sharp - and I'm just hungry. I love to compete, I love the adrenaline and thank God I haven't gotten too many injuries and I don't have to stay out.”
So it was really no surprise that after announcing his return to the welterweight division with a short notice win over Kunchenko in August, Burns was ready to go as soon as he heard that Thiago Alves was out of his UFC Copenhagen bout against Gunnar Nelson.
In Canada earlier this month to work with teammate Chas Skelly for The Scrapper’s bout against Jordan Griffin, Burns was already in training for this weekend’s ADCC World Championships when he got a Tweet informing him of Nelson’s need for an opponent.
“When I saw Twitter, I started Tweeting right away and I called my manager (Ali Abdelaziz) and said, 'Hey, I want that fight,’” recalled Burns. “I called my coach, everybody liked the fight and they all knew how hard I was training. The next day, they (the UFC) replied and said, 'Okay, you got the fight. It's a done deal.' I was so happy and I started training for the fight right away.”
That’s Gilbert Burns, who even wondered if he could pull off the fight and the ADCC tournament, only to have his wife tell him he was crazy and pure logistics making such an attempt impossible.
“If I could choose I would fight in ADCC and then fight in MMA,” he said. “But unfortunately I can't do both. The ADCC is in LA and the fight is gonna be in Denmark so I had to pull out.”
He’s at peace with choosing to fight, especially since it’s a matchup of jiu-jitsu black belts that’s not just appealing to the fans, but to Burns.
“With Gunnar Nelson it's kind of special,” he said. “He's very, very good, a high level grappler. I respect the guy a lot and it's a great matchup. It makes sense for him, for me, for the fans, and for the UFC, so I'm pretty excited with it.”
Even more exciting for “Durinho” is the reality that at 170 pounds, he can now show his best every time he makes the walk to the Octagon.
“I can get short-notice fights now and at '55 I couldn't get them,” said Burns, who went 7-3 as a lightweight in the UFC. “I hate to have a great opportunity show up for me and I couldn't make it because of the weight. Now I can get short notice fights, I feel a lot better in training and I don't have to deplete my body just to make the weight and go to the fight hoping that my performance is the same that I was doing in training. I can fight a lot more now, I'm not killing my body and I can prolong my career. And I can't wait to test myself against the high level guys at this weight.”
It starts this weekend against Nelson, and a win here would be quite the feather in the cap of the 33-year-old, who is finally starting to get the recognition from fans and media that he’s deserved for years.
“It's crazy, just when I made the decision to go up to 170, things started changing and I really enjoy that,” he said. “For sure, I'm looking forward to all that media, all that work, all that training. And the thing is, I have a great team behind me and they know I like to work. They have to hold me down sometimes, but I've been doing great work with my conditioning coach and all my team, I'm always training, always in shape, and I've been working hard for all this and I'm gonna keep working. I still have a lot of goals in my career and I'm excited for that and I'm gonna keep chasing them.”
And whether it’s a fight, a grappling match, a game of chess or some pickup basketball game, Burns knows only one answer.
“Everything that I can do now, I'm going to do, because as soon as I'm done, I don't want have any regrets.”