Think you know Josh Burkman?
The Josh Burkman who enters the ring Saturday night with a chance to win the World Series of Fighting welterweight championship is not the same guy he was four years ago. And that transformation is the biggest reason he is on the precipice of a title.
"I grew up. When I was younger, I did a lot of things I don't do now," said Burkman, who will square off with Steve Carl in Coral Gables, Fla. "I wasn't as focused. Now, I live my life differently – I don't drink, don't party. I'm now more aware and I'm sharper at everything I do."
Burkman, now 33 and a Draper resident, said the biggest difference in his maturation process was when he became a husband and father. No longer was he just accountable for himself. Now, he works, trains and lives for his wife Brandy and their son Legend.
"When it was just me, I could selfish and I could be reckless," he said. "Having a son took all that away and now I want to be a good example and provide for my family. I believe that has brought out the best in who I am as a martial artist and as a person."
The difference in the ring has been dramatic. After he was dropped by UFC in 2008 after losing four times in a five-bout span, he took a year off to heal his banged-up body – and mind. He said he did so holistically, without pain medication and without surgery.
Burkman signed with Showdown Fights in 2009 and won 5 of 6 bouts before joining the newly formed World Series of Fighting a year ago. He has run his record to 8-1 since 2009 and can become the organization's first welterweight champ this weekend.
If that happens, Burkman's coach Jason Mertlich said it will be because of his transformed mindset.
"I've never seen someone with such a strong belief system and faith in what he's doing and where he's at in his life," said Mertlich, who has worked with Burkman at The Pit Elevated gym in Orem for the past three years. "He has incredible belief in himself.
"If Josh goes out there and performs to his ability, it's going to be a very, very short night for his opponent."
Saturday's bout, scheduled for five rounds, should provide Burkman with his toughest professional test. Carl is 20-3 and none of his past six opponents have been able to make it out of the first round.
Burkman, who also trains at Absolute MMA in Midvale and his own gym, XMA inside Xcel Fitness, expects the unexpected from the 28-year-old with an unorthodox style.
"He does a lot of different things, stands in a lot of different stances," Burkman said. "I have to be prepared for anything. He deserves a lot of respect. But I believe I'm better than ever, I think my fighting style is more intelligent and I will bring home that belt.
"Winning this world championship would complete that comeback. That not only did I come back, but I came back better and stronger than I've ever been."
Josh Burkman file
• The 33-year-old will fight for the World Series of Fighting's welterweight MMA title Saturday in Florida.
• He turned down a football scholarship from Utah in 2002 to pursue an MMA career.
• Since returning to the ring after a one-year hiatus, Burkman is 8-1 – the best stretch since he started his 37-bout career with nine wins in his first 10 bouts.