When Marat Gafurov (13-0) became the undisputed ONE featherweight champion after finishing Narantungalang Jadambaa last November, Herbert Burns was one of the first to extend congratulations to the newly crowned champ. But it wasn’t your typical congratulatory message.
When we asked him about this post, Burns shared his thoughts on the now-undisputed champion. “Gafurov is a very good fighter, a true champion,” he tells DojoDrifter.com in an exclusive interview. “He unified the belt and I gave him my congratulations, but I know how capable I am. In my opinion, he made lots of technical mistakes and I was really not impressed by his performance.”
“The Blaze” has been on a tear since joining the Singapore-based promotion in February 2012, going undefeated in all of his six assignments that includes victories over former PXC lightweight champ Harris Sarmiento, former ONE featherweight champ Honorio Banario, and most recently, the hard-hitting Timofey Nastyukhin in the undercard of “Odessey of Champions” in Jakarta three months ago.
On that same card, Gafurov was supposed to take on Naratungalag for the title, but the latter couldn’t make the fight due to visa issues. Martin Nguyen, who was scheduled to face Bashir Ahmad on the same card, was bumped up to the main event to face Gafurov in what was declared an interim title fight.
Why was Nguyen, not Burns, the one to get the interim title shot? Burns is wondering the same thing. “I was definitely surprised [with ONE’s decision to put Nguyen in the interim title fight instead of me]. There was talk that if I had beaten [Honorio] Banario [last December], I was supposed to get a title shot,” he shares. “[I won but the title shot] didn’t happen, and they gave it to Gafurov. Then when I heard that they did put Martin to fight for the interim title, I was really shocked.”
Burns feels like his accolades are enough to get him a title shot. However, according to Burns, ONE Championship purposely booked Gafurov vs. Nguyen to protect their original title fight: Gafurov vs. Naratungalag.
“I had 4 straight wins in a row, the biggest winning streak not only for the featherweight division, but for the whole ONE roster,” says Burns. “I think that they tried to protect the title fight of Jabamda vs. Gafurov by giving the Russian a beatable opponent. If they had given the title fight to me, I would have destroyed their plans.”
The fact that he was fighting on the same card as the Nguyen-Gafurov fight nearly distracted Burns, which could’ve been deadly as he was about to face Nastyukhin, who had just knocked out Filipino favorite Eduard Folayang in his promotional debut.
Not to be outdone, Burns made sure he got the job done against Nastyukhin. “[The Nguyen-Gafurov match-up] bothered me, but I kept my focus on my fight against Timofey, who was a very tough opponent,” shares the BJJ black belter, who submitted Nastyukhin in the very first round.
“I made a huge statement that night.” “I didn’t talk to anyone from ONE [after submitting Nastyukhin], but they made very clear before the fight that [my fight against Nastyukhin] was a title contender fight. I won and I want what is mine–that is the title shot. I submitted their rising star that night, and now I have 5 wins in a row at ONE. If that is not enough for me to get my shot at the title, then I don’t know what is.”