Josh Burkman first arrived on the radar of UFC fans when he appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 2 on SpikeTV. Despite not winning that competition, Burkman has steadily been making his way through the UFC welterweight ranks ever since, beating suuch opponents as Chad Reiner, Josh Neer, and Sam Morgan. On May 26, Josh will be fighting Karo Parysian at UFC 71. Josh recently took some time out of his training schedule to speak with us at BuddyTV.
Below you will find both the written transcript and the mp3 audio of our interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started fighting. What made you decide to focus on mixed martial arts?
How I got started…you know, I’ve fought in combat my whole life, whether it was just wrestling around with my friends in the neighborhood or, you know, beating each other up. I’ve always been into one on one and combat. How I got started with MMA as a sport is I was playing football, and that was at Dixie State which is a junior college in St. George. And, at that time when I was trying out for a university trying to go play football and they had local fight shows. It was on TV and I did tuned in a couple of times when I was down at school and I was like “ I heard the winner got a hundred bucks.” For a college student, that was a lot of money. So I just went down, called up the show and signed up and they said “Oh we don’t have a fight right now. All we have is one kid, he’s 9-0.” I said “I’ll take it.” And I fought that fight and I lost, you know, I got beat up for a round and a half and on the second round I got arm barred. And I was like “What the hell is that? That’s not fighting!” And a couple of days later I went and signed up for jujitsu class, dropped out of school and that’s how my career got started.
That’s a rough way to earn some beer money, right out of the gate, but that sounds very cool. Tell us a little bit about how your life has changed since being on the Ultimate Fighter season two?
Basically, what the reality show was for me was just a stepping stone, you know. After the reality show I didn’t have any guarantees on the contract or anything like that. I just…I broke my arm in that fight against Melvin and I won that fight and they asked me to come back and basically… I wasn’t bummed out that I didn’t win the show or nothing. I just knew I’d be given another chance to fight in the UFC, cause I did get a win and that was when I got my next shot at the UFC. You know, I was ready and got a win, so it was definitely just a stepping stone for me and it got my name out there to the average fans, you know, those that didn’t know who I was before that, so it was a big step for me from kind of fighting in the smaller shows to finally making it to the UFC.
We enjoyed watching you on that show. You mentioned Melvin. Any comments on what has happened with Melvin Guillard in the last couple of weeks?
You know, I just feel really bad for Melvin. I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him. Sometimes people get…you know, when things get into the media, on these websites, they get blown out of proportion. I don’t know what the story is, I don’t know what happened with Melvin, all I know is that Melvin’s had a…he’s had a really hard last year and a half, two years. He went through the hurricane and I know he started, I mean, after that he just started having a hard time with everything. His home got destroyed, it was under water, and he really had a hard time with that and you know…I know a little while before Melvin’s fight with Joey, his dad died and I think those events getting stacked up on top of each other just was so hard for Melvin to deal with and, also, Melvin’s a charismatic kind of guy and everybody knows who he is and so he gets all these drinks being thrown at him, and everything else. So, I don’t know what exactly the story is, I just feel bad for him and my prayers are with him because I know he’s been through a lot in the past year and a half. But, he’s a tough kid and I hope that this wakes him up, because the kid’s got more raw talent than anybody.
We feel the same way. Well, let’s switch gears a little bit. You’ve had some really nice performances over the last year or so, with wins over Josh Neer and Drew Fickett and Chad and Sam Morgan. We’re certainly very excited about the upcoming Karo Parisyan fight. How do you stack up against Karo now and how do you see this fight playing out?
You know, I think it’s a really good match up for me. I think all the things that Karo’s really good at I have answers for. Karo’s right when he says that I’m pretty good everywhere, not great at anything, you know. But I think the one thing that I’m really good at is taking people out on what they’re best at and I think I’ll be able to do that with Karo. I think he thinks he’s coming in thinking he’s going to dominate me, in his interviews and stuff, but I think he’s dead wrong. I’m gonna be a lot more than what Karo can handle. I haven’t really shown…you know, I haven’t peaked for my fights and I think my training’s going really well, I think the things we’re doing are going to pay off on the 26th. I’m gonna definitely stop Karo. He hasn’t been stopped in the UFC yet and I think I’m going to be the first person to stop him.
Are you 100% healthy coming into the fight?
Yeah I’m healthy. That’s one thing… the last couple of fights, I’ve done a couple of things, but I think any time you’re training for a fight at this level, you’re going to run into little nick knack injuries, but right now I’m healthy, I feel really good and everything is on the up and up for the fight.
Not that you’re looking past Karo, but where would this leave you in the welterweight division assuming you get past him successfully? Are you looking down the road at Koscheck or a Diego fight or potentially a rematch with John Fitch?
Out of all those fights I’d definitely want the rematch with John Fitch. I think John Fitch is probably the number one contender right now. Over anyone else he’s earned the title shot. And my fight with John Fitch, you know, it was while I was getting ready for a rock concert and I had injuries, but I still wanted to fight. I know it’s a business and I know we need to take it professional, but once you turn into a professional fighter, you only get a fight every so often, especially in the UFC because there’s so many guys. So I’d love to have that fight again. I think that if me and John would kind of just go out of the gate, we’d definitely see a different result and besides that, if I beat Karo and Matt Serra’s still got the belt, you know, I want a shot cause Karo’s beating at ‘ya, you know? If Karo was to win the fight, I’d definitely be the number one contender, because he’d be the champion so I think if I beat Karo, I think I should be on that spot.
Great. What do you think generally of guys coming across from Pride, guys like Mirko and Herring and then losing their fights in the UFC? Is it generally a different ball game over here in the UFC than in Pride?
You know, I think it’s a lot different game. For one, the rules are a little bit different, but I just think that it’s a different style of fight. The guys over here in the UFC are real hungry and I think that I’m sure they’ve trained hard for every single fight and are ready, you know. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in your career, whoever you’re fighting, you both have too much, too late and you got to come in and perform that day and, like I said, a lot of these guys in the UFC, man, they’re hungry. Just because you fought somewhere else it doesn’t mean that you’re gonna get the win. You got to come fight all the time and the sports evolve and the sports change and I don’t think the guys at the top of the game right now are going to be the guys at the top of the game by the end of this year.
If you could change one thing about the UFC or the sport or the lifestyle, or its perception in general, what would that be right now?
Honestly, I don’t think I’d change much about it. I think it’s not only one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but it’s also one of the most entertaining things to watch right now. When it comes to sports and sports entertainment now, Luther, Dana White, they’re doing what needs to be done. Over the next year or so, people will start to see…people who are looking down upon it will see this as a sport, where everybody respects everybody when you’re done fighting and there’s not much I would change about it now, I just love being a part of it.
Could you tell your fans something about Josh Burkman that they may not know or maybe that they should know, something that wasn’t on the Ultimate Fighter show, or something that they couldn’t read on interviews?
What’s with all these tough questions, man? What I’m doing now is just focusing on my fight career. I’ve got a lot of…it took me a long time to start to focus, you know, because I’m very extreme, I like to do random things. Now, I’m trying to just focus on my career. I’ve been through a lot, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, whatever it might be. And I think I’ve learned from most of my mistakes, I’m really focused and my goal is to become a world champion, you know. And besides that, I love golfing, and going full bore on my jeeps. I got a couple of jeeps. I love to go on safaris and stuff like that when I’m not fighting and hopefully one day getting my golf game up and hopefully end up on the PGA tour.
I want to thank you for your time and from all of us here at BuddyTV, we wish you nothing but the best of luck on May 26th. All your fans are certainly looking forward to a big night.
I’m excited for it too. After this fight I’m going to get my website up, joshburkman.com. It’s up now, but we’re going to have merchandise and everything so everybody can go get stuff like that and then I’ll start writing my journal entries and let everybody know what’s going on, on a week by week basis. I appreciate all the support and I get all their messages and emails while I’m up here in the mountains training, it makes me work twice as hard everyday, so I appreciate them very much.
(Interview Conducted by Tom Michel)