Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos knows well what it takes to win a world title — and he is backing lifelong friend Gilbert Burns to do the same against Kamaru Usman at UFC 251 next month.
Burns will challenge for the UFC welterweight title on July 11 after rising to the top contender position in the UFC’s 170-pound fold following a run which has seen him win six straight fights — with the last three names on the list being well-regarded fighters like Tyron Woodley, Gunnar Nelson and Demian Maia.
The Brazilian’s ascent to a title shot comes after Jorge Masvidal — previously thought to be the division’s top contender — was unable to come to terms with the UFC regarding compensation to appear in the fight. However, this isn’t a concern to Dos Anjos who says that the man he has known for practically his entire life will display exactly why he is deserving of the title opportunity on July 11.
“I’ve known Gilbert since like first grade,” dos Anjos said to MMA Junkie. “I was his older brother’s best friend. We were in like second grade, and Gilbert was in first grade. I’ve known Gilbert for so many years him and his brothers, and he’s a great guy. I like him a lot.
“I think he’s very motivated,” dos Anjos added. “One thing I can be sure: He’s motivated. I think since he and Kamaru, they trained a lot together in the past, I think he has a big chance.
“I’ll put my money on Gilbert, because I feel like he’s on his time, and he feels like he got a chance for the title, and I’m sure he’s going to go with everything.”
Submission specialist Burns is considered to be among the division’s top grapplers but recent fights have also displayed a notable uptick in his striking skills, as evidenced by dropping Woodley seconds into their UFC main event on May 30. The fight will be Burns’ third already in 2020, while Usman will be competing for the first time since winning his grudge match with Colby Covington late last year.
Usman vs. Burns is part of a trio of title fights on the UFC 251 card which will also feature championship clashes between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway, while Petr Yan fights Jose Aldo for the vacant UFC bantamweight champioship.