Gilbert Burns praises Neil Magny, says Belal Muhammad turned down UFC 283 fight


Following a “Fight of the Year” candidate against Khamzat Chimaev this past April, Gilbert Burns was anxious to book at least one more 2022 appearance in the UFC.

That never happened. The one-time title challenger pursued a fight against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 281. When that fell apart, he then turned his attention to UFC 283 so he could fight in Brazil for the first time since 2020, when he competed in an empty arena at the start of the global pandemic.

Burns ultimately got his wish, getting matched up against Neil Magny. But he revealed that wasn’t the first option the UFC initially offered.

“It was supposed to be [Jorge] Masvidal, [and there was] a lot of back and forth, [but] he didn’t take the fight,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “The fight was even offered to Belal Muhammad. “That was the fight the UFC wanted to make, but he was one of these guys – ‘Oh, I’ll fight him, but not in Brazil, not right now, not on that date,’ and Neil Magny stepped up and he took the fight.

“For sure, I respect [Magny]. I wanted that fight, especially in Brazil, for sure I’m thankful for the guy to step up and take the fight.”

Burns got into a heated war of words over social media with Masvidal when their fight fizzled, but he was actually more upset that Muhammad passed on the chance to face him in January.

“He was offered to fight in Brazil, and he turned it down,” Burns said of Muhammad. “Crazy because he got my place in the rankings without beating me. When the fight was offered, he declined it. That’s another story. But yeah, we might see each other soon.”

Muhammad is currently riding a nine-fight undefeated streak, which includes wins over Vicente Luque, Sean Brady, Demian Maia and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.

With all signs pointing towards a title fight trilogy between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman in early 2023, Muhammad has previously called for a showdown with Khamzat Chimaev but Burns still doesn’t understand why he passed up the chance to face him at UFC 283.

“He beat a guy in Sean Brady, all due respect to this guy, he’s very, very good but I have nothing to do with that fight. How the heck he passed me in the rankings?” Burns said. “I was No. 4, he beat Sean Brady, that was maybe No. 7 or 8, I don’t know what number he was at the time and he passed me in the rankings and when the fight is offered, he don’t want to fight. That was very frustrating. I thought that was going to be the fight.

“We have the same manager Ali Abdelaziz. Ali called me and said ‘they want to make you versus Belal and I think Belal will take it because he always takes it so let me talk to him.’ Then a couple days later, ‘oh he has a lot of things going on, this and that’ but you’re a fighter. If you’re not injured, if you’re not [stuck] in legal things as Colby and Masvidal, why not? It’s a little frustrating.”

Ideally, Burns would get the chance to face someone closer to him in the rankings but for the second fight in a row he’s risking his position in the division because he prefers not to avoid anybody just based on numbers.

A win over Magny may not give him a big bump up the rankings but Burns was just happy somebody was willing to accept the challenge when it appears so many others were not.

“It’s kind of frustrating to be calling those guys out, having those fights offered to you, you say yes and the other guy doesn’t,” Burns lamented. “The Masvidal case, I got it, there’s a lot of things going on with Colby [Covington], back and forth, court and things. I don’t know if he can’t fight, if he’s ready but Belal Muhammad, how come he passed me in the rankings?

“He never beat me and then when the fight is on the table, he says no. It is what it is. Now the focus is on Neil Magny.”

Long term, Burns wants to put his name back in contention to fight for a UFC title again, which is going to require him to earn those matchups against higher ranked competition.

That can’t be his concern right now, however, as Burns stays focused on Magny and the task at hand. He’ll deal with Muhammad and everybody else in the division after UFC 283.

“My goal right now is to become a champion,” Burns said. “I do believe in order for me to get another title shot I need three finishes. Three big finishes and Neil Magny’s going to be the first step. I believe I can beat him.

“For sure, very tough, a lot of respect but I believe me getting a finish, maybe a couple more finishes, I’ll earn a title shot.”


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