Gilbert Burns was supposed to fight Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title at UFC 251 earlier this year, but had to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19, and while that was a crushing disappointment at the time, in hindsight he’s grateful that he’s had plenty of time to recover from the virus.
“My energy level was not normal coming back,” Burns told mmafighting.com. “It’s a long process. I was not at 100 percent [a month after testing positive].”
“I feel better that I didn’t fight,” Burns said. “I know that sounds weird but if I got that virus and for any reason tested negative, I was going into the fight and I wasn’t feeling good.
“Don’t get me wrong, even if I’m not feeling good, I’m going to fight anyways. I’m not going to pull out, especially for a title fight.
“I’m going to give my best. I don’t know if my best will be enough but I’ll never pull out of the fight.
“But to take me out and I got home and started getting sick, I definitely see it as a blessing.”
Burns went on to reveal how several of his teammates also got Covid-19, but were asymptomatic and quickly bounced back from it, while despite being in great shape he found the road back to full fitness much more of a struggle.
“It was very confusing,” Burns said. “Three of my own coaches had it, Kami Barzini, Greg Jones and Vagner Rocha, but they had no symptoms.
“Vagner felt nothing. Greg Jones and Kami as well, they had no symptoms.
Aung La [A Sang], the ONE champion that trains with us, he had no symptoms. It’s confusing.”
As such, Burns is eager to warn others not to dismiss the threat that the virus presents.
“…You can’t say it’s just for elderly [people]. Just make sure you take care of yourself, wear your mask, stay clean, don’t go out crazy.
“Take all the precautions. It’s very confusing, that virus. People get sick, people don’t. Just make sure to take care of yourself and respect the limits.
“Make sure you [distance] yourself from people and stay safe.”
Burns is the latest high-profile fighter to have reported symptoms of what’s known as ‘Long Covid’, with both Cody Garbrandt and Leon Edwards also having endured an extended battle with the virus.
Thankfully, Burns appears to have recovered now and is set to fight Usman at UFC 258 in February.