By Jared Jones
Unless you’ve been a close follower of the Utah MMA scene over the past few years, chances are that you’ve probably forgotten all about TUF 2 alum Josh Burkman. After a three fight skid saw him ousted from the UFC back in 2008, Burkman took over a year and a half off to recover from several injuries that could have ended any lesser man’s career, injuries Burkman admits in hindsight that he should have addressed much earlier. But if you were to ask Josh how the past few years have treated him, you’d think he was on top of the world.
I called Josh at approximately 5:15 p.m. EST yesterday. He was just stepping into his house after a long day of training for his November 3rd match against fellow UFC veteran Gerald Harris on the inaugural card of the Ray Sefo-run World Series of Fighting promotion. It’s a win that could very well propel “The People’s Warrior” back into the octagon for the first time in over four years, yet he doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of the pressure getting to him. I ask him how he’s doing. “Life is good,” he tells me, making sure to kiss his ten day old son as soon as he enters the house. From the get-go, I can tell that Josh is a much more open and laid back guy than some of the fighters I’ve dealt with in the past. But little did I know that before our conversation was over, we would discuss everything from his career comeback and newly found lease on life to his infamous in and out of the ring brawls with Jeremy Horn and Phil Baroni.
I started by asking him all the formalities about Harris — what Josh thinks his strongest and weakest areas are and how he has trained to deal with them– and he was more than frank when assessing his upcoming opponent. But rather than detail how he planned to defeat Harris, Burkman simply stated that the intrigue of figuring out another person’s fighting style is one of the reasons he became a mixed martial artist in the first place:
“[Harris] is so big and strong and he’s got heavy hands. And he’s a great wrestler. He seems to be able to control his fights and take them where he wants them to go. It’s always fun for me going into a fight to figure that out, and that’s kind of what my training revolves around; figuring out that problem out and how that plays into my game. It all comes out on November 3rd and I’m ready for that. That’s why I fight. I fight for that competition, for that chance to figure someone out, and I feel I’m more prepared for Gerald Harris than I’ve been for any other fight in my career.”
I asked Burkman whether or not he viewed himself as the underdog coming into the fight and Josh was quick to admit that he had been out of the public eye for quite a while longer than Harris, and could therefore find himself playing that role whether he wants to or not:
“You know, Gerald Harris, he’s kind of been in a bigger scene than I’ve been in as of late. I think that most people have heard about what he’s been doing a little bit more; he’s a little bit more high-profile than I am going into this fight and I think that’s probably what people are seeing.”
But don’t be fooled, Burkman is not exactly selling himself short. He mentioned that, since coming back from the devastating injuries that limited him during his last few fights in the UFC, he’s racked up five wins against only one loss, including wins over Bellator vet Jordan Smith (who was undefeated at the time) and UFC veterans Brandon Melendez and Jamie Yager.
“Harris is in that line of each opponent being better and better than the last for me. I think Harris the best guy I’ve fought since I’ve comeback, and I’m gonna try and show that. It’s coming quick, isn’t it?” he says with a chuckle.
As any conversation with a UFC veteran such as Burkman will inevitably take, we began to talk about his former promotion. Specifically, whether or not he felt a win over Harris would earn him another shot at Zuffa glory.
“This fight is right where I want to be in my career. I went on a nice little run in the UFC, then I got injured, and I couldn’t train like I wanted to train. I had to take a year and a half off and during that year and a half off I didn’t know whether I would be able to comeback and fight or not. As I came back, I wanted to fight in Utah and I fought Melendez and Smith, two guys that were big names in Utah and had fought on the UFC and Bellator level. I had to prove to myself that I could fight at that level again. And once I was able to, I was like ‘Alright, let’s step it up a little bit, then step it up a little bit more.’
When I was first in the UFC, I had only been fighting for two years and I was getting big fights and a lot of publicity. I felt like I was learning as I was going and as I was fighting. Now, I feel like I’ve been around and learned a lot of the different styles. I’ve trained with guys like Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture and the best in the business. I’ve kind of brought all that into my own style.”
But even more than what Burkman has been up to professionally, he credited his recent marriage to International Yoga Champion Brandy Lyn Winfield and incredibly recent birth of his son as the factors that pushed him to prove to the world that he was ready for another shot at the big time.
“All of those things have now come together to where I’m ready to get back out on a bigger scene and see how much better I am than I was then. A win over Gerald Harris let’s everyone know that [I] haven’t been sitting around. I’m better than I’ve ever been and I think that’s what this fight is going to show.”
Click on the “next page” tab to hear Burkman discuss everything from his former training partner Chael Sonnen’s upcoming TUF gig/fight against Jon Jones to the time he was spit on by Jeremy Horn and cheap-shotted by Phil Baroni at a nightclub.