Can’t keep Shane Burgos from a fight in New York for long.
The PFL lightweight semifinalist, born in The Bronx and residing in Monroe, hasn’t gone more than two fights in a row without returning to compete in his home state.
So when his first two bouts with the season-based fight organization, after inking a contract to leave the UFC, were contested in Las Vegas and Atlanta, respectively, one had to figure Burgos was due for a homecoming.
That comes Wednesday night (9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, where Burgos (16-4, 10 finishes) faces Clay Collard for a spot in the 155-pound season championship on Nov. 24.
“I’m gonna pack the place out,” Burgos, 7-0 in the Empire State, recently told The Post via Zoom. “The fact that it’s in New York, like I said, the stars are aligned. I just had a feeling that my season wasn’t going to be done, and I wasn’t going to be not fighting in New York. I knew, one way or another, I was going to be on a New York card this year.”
Here’s the thing: Burgos’ season was done when he went to bed after his June 23 clear decision win over Yamato Nishikawa, earning him three PFL standings points — enough for fifth of 10 in a format that sends the top four, who all had at least six points, on to the playoffs.
PFL awards six points for first-round finishes, five for a second-round win, four for the third, and three for a decision, so he was already doomed when he failed to finish Nishikawa in the first round.
And then, overnight, those stars Burgos mentioned aligned in his favor.
No. 3 seed Natan Schulte, who on the same night picked up one of the most lackluster decision victories one can earn in MMA in an awkward bout with dear friend Raush Manfio, had been suspended and removed from the season and paved the way for Burgos’ entry into the final four.
The organization justified the controversial move in a statement, saying the pair’s “PFL fight agreements agree to use their best efforts,” but it was met with pushback from former PFL champions Schulte and Manfio as well as many more fans, fighters and media members.
A smaller number of the decision’s critics intimated the aim was to get Burgos, PFL’s top signee last summer competing this year, into the playoffs.
Burgos dismissed the scenario with a hypothetical one of his own.
“Listen, if Yamato knocked me the f–k out … in the third round, had a crazy knockout, but he didn’t get enough points and the same situation happened with [Schulte and Manfio’s] fight, you don’t think that [PFL] would have gave him the opportunity?” Burgos outlines. “If he knocked out Shane Burgos — and this kid’s 20 years old — they would have 100 percent gave him the same opportunity. So I don’t think it was a me thing. I think it was more so a them thing.”
Burgos made clear that he sympathizes with the tough situation Schulte and Manfio were placed in by PFL matchmakers but that it’s his job to make the most of the new life breathed into his pursuit of the $1 million season crown.
To keep the dream alive, he’ll first have to get through Collard (23-10, 14 finishes), a 2021 semifinalist and 18-fight professional boxing veteran with a penchant for exciting fights.
Like Collard, Burgus brought a reputation as an entertaining fighter with him from the UFC, although his first two PFL bouts didn’t back up his rep.
Burgos has had his eye on a prospective Collard matchup since his arrival, and can’t see a way for them to have a lackluster matchup.
“It’s a banger of a matchup,” Burgos says. “It just is what it is. Everybody knows what to expect in this fight. It’s one of those fights, when I first signed with the PFL, everyone’s like, ‘I want to see Shane vs. Clay.”
“We’re not gonna go out there and play it safe and try to make it to the finals and be unscathed,” he said. “It’s just not my style, and I know it’s damn well not his style as well. The referee is gonna say go, we’re gonna meet in the middle, and it’s gonna be a car crash.”
The winner advances to face the man who emerges from the other lightweight semifinal Wednesday between 2022 champion Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Bruno Miranda.
Burgos lost his PFL debut in April on points at the hands of Aubin-Mercier in a contest the New Yorker said felt “more like a bad sparring session than a fight.”
Without intending to look past either Collard or the possibility of Miranda moving on, Burgos clearly wants another crack at the last man to beat him, if those stars line up just right for him once again.
“I do lean towards [Aubin-Mercier] winning that fight, and I want him to win that fight so I can get that rematch too,” Burgos said before laying out the dream scenario. “So, I get the win in August against Clay, and I get to fight him again in the finals for a million dollars to get redemption; to get a belt. There’s so much on the line with that. Man, it gets me excited just thinking about it.”