Naturally, it’s Twitter.
“Durinho” was bound for Vancouver to help teammate Chas Skelly prepare for his UFC bout with Jordan Griffin when someone tagged him in a post. Alves had just withdrawn from the Copenhagen card, and Nelson was in need of an opponent.
Sixteen days wasn’t much time to prepare, especially since Burns was in Canada to help a friend and had about one week to work. But he was already training to compete at ADCC, scheduled for the same weekend as the UFC. So he already was in fight shape.
Now that he’s a welterweight, Burns doesn’t need much time to make weight. He aspires to be as busy as Donald Cerrone. Yet he didn’t volunteer just to get in reps, make money, or climb the rankings.
“He has a high-level ground game; he’s one of the best grapplers in whole Europe,” Burns said of Nelson in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I’ll tell you the truth: The only reason why I accepted this fight is because of his ground game. He’s really tough on the ground.
“He’s good on the feet, a good karate fighter, counters really well, (and he) has some good knockouts. He has a different style. We both put our opponents in danger on the feet, but the ground is where we are really good at, and I’m excited to test myself against him there.”
“Gunni” has never been submitted in 22 professional MMA fights before. A black belt under Renzo Gracie, he’s competed twice at ADCC – 2009 and 2011 – and took on some of the world’s best grapplers, including Andre Galvao, Vinny Magalhaes and Bruno Frazatto.
On the mats, Nelson has even taken on much heavier opponents like Jeff Monson. The only man to ever finish him was seven-time jiu-jitsu world champion and two-time ADCC gold medalist Alexandre Ribeiro, who tapped him with a kneebar one decade ago.
“One of the main factors that got me to accept this fight is that I was training jiu-jitsu and wrestling really hard for the ADCC,” Burns said. “I believe I can go for the submission here. That’s what I want. And I think my chances are good. I’ve studied his fights a lot, and I can explore that game of control and submission.
“Maybe I won’t be able to submit him – he defends really well – but I’m going for the submission or the knockout the entire time. I know how much that’s gonna help me grow in the division. I think my game is good to complicate things for him.”
It’s already been a busy year for the Brazilian, and he has no interest in slowing down. After closing 2018 with a decision win over Olivier Aubin-Mercier, “Durinho” choked out Gleison Tibau in a grappling match before returning to the UFC with a submission win over Mike Davis in his final bout at 155 pounds.
After another submission win over Marcelo Azevedo in June, Burns officially moved up to 170 and fought on short notice in UFC Uruguay, handing former M-1 Challenge welterweight champion Alexey Kunchenko his first career loss.
Focused on getting the job done against Nelson, the Niteroi native is open to fighting once more in 2019.
“I’ve always wanted to be more active, but that weight cut (to lightweight) wouldn’t let me do it,” Burns said. “With this weight cut now, I think this won’t be my last (fight this year). I want a good performance on Saturday. If everything goes according to my plans, getting a dominant victory or a finish, I’m sure it won’t be my last. I’ll go back to training a week later and do it again.”
Nelson is coming off a split decision loss to Leon Edwards in March, which sent him back to the drawing board after a devastating finish of Alex Oliveira. Even though Burns isn’t currently ranked among the 15 best welterweights on the UFC’s official list, he believes a big victory in Denmark could secure a number next to his name.
“(Nelson) was in the top 15 before fighting Leon Edwards, so I think that a dominant win or a finish puts me in the top 15,” Burns said. “The ranking is a bit unpredictable – it’s out of my control – so my goal is to get in there and do my best. I have a tough opponent in front of me, but I won’t change my style. I’m going there to try to finish him.
“I think my name might pop up there with a good performance, but I’m not worried about that.”