Dana White promises Gilbert Burns is next UFC welterweight challenger

Jorge Masvidal, who lost last time around, said he wants a rematch with champion Kamaru Usman

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Dana White has confirmed Gilbert Burns will take on UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman next, despite Jorge Masvidal calling for a rematch.

Masvidal stepped in for Burns on six days’ notice for the headline bout at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, the opening event in the four-show Fight Island. Burns, the No 1-ranked challenger, tested positive for Covid-19 before leaving Las Vegas for the Emirates, with Masvidal agreeing two days later to take his place.

Usman triumphed by unanimous decision to take his UFC record to 12-0 in a largely one-sided affair at Flash Forum. Yet Masvidal, who was contesting his first title match despite having 18 previous appearances in the promotion, has since said he is determined to land another clash with Usman - preferably before the end of the year.

However, speaking on Friday at the weigh-in to Sunday's UFC Fight Night 2 on Fight Island, White reiterated: “Gilbert’s next.”

The UFC president was full of praise for Mounir Lazzez, the Dubai resident who secured a win on his UFC debut at Fight Night 1 on Thursday. The Tunisian defeated Abdul Razak Alhassan by unanimous decision, with the bout earning a Fight of the Night bonus.

“When you have some local talent that does well, and not just does well." White said. "That kid was a [heavy] underdog and he went in there against a [expletive] beast and has a fight like the fight that they fought that night, it’s very good for the region.

“From what I’m told, that kid is very popular here, he’s got a lot of support in the region. The people who live here love that.”

Asked what he said to Lazzez outside the octagon immediately after the fight, White said: “I just went over and said congratulations. The story is just mind-boggling. I’m sure you heard the story, that I’m at my son’s birthday party and took a bunch of his friends to dinner. This kid is sitting next to me - Adam - is just terrorising me about this guy, because him and his family live out here.

“And he’s like ‘I’m telling you this guy is awesome, you need him, they love him in the area. And so I told him I’m going to do it. So I literally called [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby and told him to make the fight.

Dana White was full of praise for Mounir Lazzez, the Dubai resident who secured a win on his UFC debut at Fight Night 1 on Thursday. Chris Whiteoak/The National

"We tell the story about a 17-year-old kid made this fight and then the first two seconds we’re like ‘Oh, [expletive]'. But it worked out.

“I might take another recommendation off him. That kid’s a rock star right now; he’s loving it. You go on his Instagram and it’s all about the fight and him making the fight. It was a cool story and the fight was unbelievable."

On whether the UFC could shift their August schedule from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi if the pandemic prompts Nevada to stop sport taking place there, White said: “I have some back-up plans. It’s not ideal; it’s not what I want to do. I want to stay in Vegas.

“Not only in Vegas, but in other parts of the world, other parts of the country, we can pull this off safely and not hurt anybody. And hopefully we have that opportunity to do that in our hometown, where it would be a lot safer for all of us. I hope that’s the case. We’ll see.

White added: “We’re going to do a lot of fights over here. If you look at how many international fights we do a year, we do those here in Abu Dhabi. But we have to so some of these fights in the States.

"Listen, we’re definitely coming back to Abu Dhabi, that’s guaranteed. When I came here everybody had this idea that this Fight Island thing was three or four fights and that was a wrap. That’s not true. We’re here to stay.

"As far as trying to find another venue outside the United States, it ain’t happening. Why would I go anywhere other than Abu Dhabi? Abu Dhabi might end up becoming the fight capital of the world - seriously. It’s definitely not Las Vegas right now.”