Herbert Burns Plans To Seize Opportunity Against Movlid Khaibulaev

Herbert “The Blaze” Burns has been steadily campaigning for a title shot at the ONE Featherweight World Championship. On Friday Night, 10 February, the undefeated Brazilian will get a chance to build upon his efforts and inch closer towards that goal.

The No-Gi BJJ World Champion will look to get his seventh-consecutive victory when he faces unbeaten Russian featherweight Movlid “Killer” Khaibulaev at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS, which emanates live from Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“I have been through a lot of wars and I have defeated the toughest guys in the division,” the 29-year-old Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, native says. “Movlid is well-rounded. I have faced guys similar to him, but it will be the same result. I will be ready for him and I will get the win.”

Whenever Burns has been presented with an opportunity, he has seized the moment and capitalized on it. Not only has that been the central theme to his mixed martial arts career, but his life, too.

As a child growing up in Niterói, a municipality inside Rio De Janeiro, Burns was a typical neighborhood kid. He attended school, played football, and roughhoused with his brothers Gilbert and Frederick.

When he was five, he and his siblings received legit fighting experience from their father, an upholsterer and karate black belt who taught them Shotokan karate. Young Herbert excelled at the martial art. Within three years, he was a state champion.

Soon, however, the love for karate waned, and the three brothers were back to playing football and roaming the neighbourhood. Their father did not approve. Wanting to keep his children off the streets, the Burns patriarch bartered with one of his clients and made a deal.

“He did a service for one of his friends, Luis Carlos da Fonseca,” Herbert recalls. “He did modifications of his car seats for free, and traded that for one month only for my brother Gilbert and I to do Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

“My dad said, ‘if you guys go there, you do really well because the exchange I did is only going to give you one month. I will not be able to afford to pay for you to train for the next month. But if you guys are really good, he said he would let you keep coming. If you guys are okay, then he would be like alright, next month is this much.’”

This was the first of many opportunities Burns received. Fortunately, he capitalized on it. At the end of the trial month, he won a jiu-jitsu tournament and Gilbert placed second. The brothers continued to train, and did so for free.

Eventually, all three brothers would earn their black belts. Gilbert received his from Rafael Fofito in 2007 and ventured into the world of MMA. Frederick would train, obtain his black belt, and join the marines. As for Herbert, he earned his in 2011 and was co-promoted by both Gilbert and Rafael.

Still, his martial arts journey was only beginning. In 2012, as Burns was teaching aspiring young hopefuls BJJ techniques geared towards MMA, he pondered a transition into the budding new sport. After all, the BJJ competition money he earned was barely enough to support him and his baby daughter. The financial compensation in MMA, however, could open up a whole new world.

By late February, he had an offer on the table. A local organization needed a featherweight on two days short notice. The Blaze debated the pros and cons with his manager, but ultimately decided to take the bout.

All it took was 25 seconds for Burns to tap out his opponent with a triangle armbar and to be sold on a brand new career path.

“Because I got the submission, it was a fast fight,” he explains. “I said, ‘I am going to focus on this. I think I can do well in MMA,’ so I focused on it.”

The Brazilian then signed with ONE Championship, and has seized every opportunity the promotion has given him. He racked up six additional victories, with wins coming over Edward Kelly, former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio Banario, and most recently Timofey Nastyukhin.

Since Burns was last inside the cage, he has made valuable use of his time. He traveled all throughout the world to train at various camps including the Blackzilians in Florida, and Phuket Top Team in Thailand.

“I did not have any fights scheduled, so I tried to improve my weaknesses,” he admits. “I saw my weakness was striking, so I tried to advance that.”

He also returned home to Brazil, where he continued to refine his techniques and bond with his daughter, who is now 7 years old. He relished the chance to spend time with her, and was able to train and improve while waiting for the next challenge.

That next challenge has arrived in the form of ONE newcomer Movlid Khaibulaev, a combat sambo specialist who holds a perfect 10-0 record, with four wins coming by TKO and another one by submission.

For this particularly fight, Burns has remained in Brazil and has formed his own team to help prepare for the upcoming bout. He is working on his stand-up with famed striking coach Emerson Falcao, practicing BJJ and strategy with fellow mixed martial artist Thales Leites, and training alongside a slew of up-and-comers looking to make a name for themselves.

Where he goes after this fight will be determined in the future, but he is always capitalizing on opportunities and seizing the moment, which is something he passes down to young fighters.

In fact, “The Blaze” serves as an example, and shares powerful words of wisdom.

“Your mind is your biggest weapon. It can be for you or against you. If you do not believe in yourself, you do not have confidence, and having confidence is a big thing. I always say to the guys I am teaching, ‘stay close, be humble and work hard. If you do those three things, you are going to go far,’” Burns explains.

“You need to be ready. Opportunities are created, and when they happen, you need to be ready. That is what I try to be like. That is why I took so many last-minute fights. I was ready, the opportunity was there, and I took it. You cannot wait for the perfect opportunity.”

Burns has seized every opportunity given to him. He plans to do that again this coming Friday.