ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – While recent UFC castoff Jon Fitch is slated to fight for a title in his June World Series of Fighting debut, his opponent, Josh Burkman, would have preferred another setup.
Burkman improved to 7-1 since his UFC days and picked up an impressive first-round TKO of Aaron Simpson at Saturday’s WSOF 2 event at Revel Atlantic City in New Jersey.
But before the Burkman (25-9) vs. Simpson (12-5) fight, which aired on NBC Sports Network, WSOF President Ray Sefo said the winner would fight Fitch (24-5-1) at WSOF 3 on June 14 in Las Vegas for the inaugural WSOF welterweight title.
Burkman, who also scored a decision victory over Gerald Harris at WSOF 1, doesn’t think Fitch should get the immediate shot. But he believes either one is a worthy champion.
“I think he should come into the organization and win (a non-title fight), and then they need to put me in against the winner of that, which I think it’ll be Jon Fitch,” Burkman told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) after the fight. “I think either one of us will represent this organization well as a titleholder.”
Burkman and Fitch actually fought once before. Back at UFC Fight Night 4 in 2006, Fitch scored a submission victory over Burkman, who suffered his first UFC loss. Fitch went on to challenge for a UFC title and become one of the most successful 170-pounders in MMA history. But following his 1-2-1 run, the UFC cut Fitch this past month.
Burkman got his own release back in 2008 after a 5-5 run in the UFC. But in recent years, as he’s largely dominated in outside organizations, Burkman said he’s a different fighter heading into the rematch with Fitch.
“I think a lot of it has been a learning curve,” he said. “I’ve been in this sport 10 years now. Things started off, and I got on a nice little run. I think the biggest thing is that the majority of my career, I was a fighter. I’d train for fights, I’d take six or eight weeks, and I’d train and get ready for a fight and be in great shape. And then I’d take two months off.
“It wasn’t a lifestyle. … Before I was training to fight. Now I’m training to be the best. I’m training to be a martial artist.”
Burkman, who credits his wife and son for giving his career focus, said some advice for the Simpson fight came from an unlikely place: his previous opponent. He and Harris actually exchanged messages on Facebook and gave each other advice for their next bouts.
For Burkman it provided some confidence and something to focus on during his training camp.
“We gave each other some advice,” Burkman said. “He said, ‘You hit hard, bro.’ He’s like, ‘I was starting to recognize that. You stunned me a couple times and never jumped on it.’ So I really tried to think about that during practice and put combinations together.”
With a title shot now looming, Burkman hopes to score his third stoppage in four fights. The 32-year-old launched his career with seven stoppage wins before a string of decisions against tougher competition.
But with his knockout power clearly on display against Simpson, and with a focus on putting together combinations during his fights, he looks to take a title from Fitch while continuing his career with the WSOF.
“That’s what I’m hoping for, and that’s what I want,” he said. “I’ve got three fights left (on my WSOF contract), and I’m not going anywhere.”
For the latest on WSOF 2, stay tuned to the MMA Events section of MMAjunkie.com. And for the latest on WSOF 3, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.