(Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.)
The first meeting between Kevin Burns and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was marred by an accidental eye poke that halted the bout midway through the third round. It was an unsatisfying end for both men, as Johnson would need surgery for a damaged retina and Burns found himself with a victory that he couldn’t really enjoy.
As the two prepare for a rematch to settle the score at Saturday night’s "Ultimate Fighter Finale," Burns talks with us about his decision to fight with the injured hand, his perspective on the eye pokes, and what he thinks of the attention the strange bout has brought upon himself and Johnson.
Check back later today for an interview with Johnson, who gives his often very different perspective on the events of that night.
CagePotato.com: Thanks for talking with me, Kevin. Coming into this rematch, how do you mentally approach a fight like this, under these strange circumstances?
Mentally I’m approaching it like I would any other fight. I’ve been in the cage with Anthony so I kind of know what to expect, I know what he’s going to bring to the table. Other than from a game plan prospective, I’m not approaching it any differently. Now I can utilize all of my standup skills. Now that my hand’s 100% I can actually throw a left jab, a left hook, things that I haven’t been able to do. That may make things a little different for him, but it will be good for me.
Tell me about the situation with the hand. What happened to it?
I broke my hand three times in sixteen months. The bone wasn’t completely fused, but if it was any other person doing normal things, not doing what we do, you probably wouldn’t notice it. I can lift weights, I can do pretty much anything, with the exception of hitting something solid. If I had hit something solid at that point, I had about a 95% chance that the bone would have fractured back through and I would have been back to square one.
So instead of delaying my fighting career I decided to take a page out of Bas Rutten’s book in the old Pancrase days in Japan and use palm strikes. They did it successfully, so I figured why can’t I? I threw a lot of successful palm strikes earlier in the fight. I couldn’t throw a closed jab, so I had to use that. Unfortunately my finger went into his eye in that last palm strike that I threw in the third round.
The one in the third round ended it, but it seemed like there were several other pokes leading up to that one. Where you aware of those, and did you feel it when it happened the last time?