Can Mads Burnell position himself for a life-altering opportunity? His next assignment figures to reveal much about his future plans in the Bellator MMA featherweight division.
Burnell will confront Roufusport mainstay and two-time title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez in the Bellator 263 co-main event this Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The rising contender enters the cage on a career-best six-fight winning streak that covers more than three years. Burnell last appeared at Bellator 257, where he submitted Saul Rogers with a second-round rear-naked choke on April 16. He has delivered 10 of his 15 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
As Burnell makes final preparations for his high-stakes showdown with Sanchez, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He was a homegrown talent.
While he has spent time training at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Burnell made his most significant developmental strides at Arte Suave in his native Copenhagen, Denmark. There, he sharpened his skills alongside Pannie Kianzad, Joachim Christensen, Damir Hadzovic, Mikkel Parlo and others.
2. He shares a kinship with a ‘Notorious’ Irishman.
Burnell remains one of only 12 men who have captured the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship featherweight title. Among the others: Conor McGregor. Now one of the sport’s biggest box-office draws, McGregor laid claim to the 145-pound championship on June 2, 2012, then vacated it to sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Burnell took the Cage Warriors featherweight crown on June 29, 2019, only to relinquish it upon joining the Bellator roster.
3. He familiarized himself with the Octagon.
The 27-year-old Burnell enjoyed a brief stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship between Sept. 2, 2017 and May 27, 2018. He went 1-2 inside the Las Vegas-based promotion, his submission losses to Michel Prazeres and Arnold Allen sandwiched around a unanimous decision victory over Mike Santiago. Prazeres and Allen own a combined record of 43-5. Burnell, meanwhile, has won 14 of his 15 bouts outside the UFC.
4. His submission skills are undeniably potent.
Burnell, who holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Chris Haueter, features four sub-minute submission wins on his resume. He submitted Aleksander Sredanovic with an anaconda choke 58 seconds into their European MMA 6 clash on Sept. 26, 2013, disposed of Ali Selcuk Ayin with a brabo choke 50 seconds into their European MMA 8 pairing on Feb. 22, 2014, tapped Jamie Reynolds with an armbar 30 seconds into their Odense Fight Night 3 meeting on April 25, 2015 and put away Ahmed Vila with a Japanese necktie 50 seconds into their Cage Warriors 103 battle on March 9, 2019. Burnell has posted two other submission victories in under 90 seconds.
5. Judges like his work.
The Nikolai Koubti disciple has gone the distance five times in his 18-fight career. Burnell has won all five of those fights by unanimous decision, outpointing Santiago, Nasir Aoubi, Hyram Rodriguez, Emerik Youmbi and Steve Aimable in three-round affairs.