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Belal Muhammad impressed by Khamzat Chimaev, but not afraid to fight the new UFC ‘boogeyman’

UFC 258: Muhammad v Lima Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Count Belal Muhammad among the welterweights who have been impressed by what they’ve seen out of Khamzat Chimaev thus far in his UFC career.

But Muhammad still needs to see more to know if the highly-touted prospect is a contender – or a pretender.

After 13 months away, Chimaev made his return to action at UFC 267, and he made short work of Li Jingliang with a first-round rear naked choke to move his record inside the octagon to 4-0. During his run, Chimaev has barely absorbed any damage whatsoever, racking up four consecutive finishes with two fights at middleweight and then two more at welterweight.

The ceiling on Chimaev seems to be pretty high, which is why Muhammad is absolutely intrigued about a potential fight against him in the near future.

“I was excited,” Muhammad said about Chimaev’s recent win while co-hosting The Fighter vs. The Writer. “It was one of those things where when he had that COVID stint and he was talking about retiring, I was like dang, cause being a competitor, being a fighter, you want to fight the top guys. You want to go against these guys that everybody thinks is the boogieman and how good they are. He showed it.

“I mean when I’m thinking about it, Li Jingliang’s not the greatest grappler, and I knew that if Khamzat was going to come out, he could pretty much dominate him in grappling. He did that. To go through four fights, I don’t care who you’re fighting against, and to only get hit once, that’s another level.”

Chimaev has earned a lot of attention ever since his UFC debut and second win just 10 days later. He then demolished middleweight veteran Gerald Meerschaert with a blistering 17-second knockout in his third fight with the UFC.

A long layoff due to a battle with COVID-19 slowed down Chimaev’s progress, but he showed no signs of slowing down with his return against Li.

UFC President Dana White has praised Chimaev as a future title contender but added the standout needs to get a couple of wins inside the welterweight top-10 before getting a fight against champ Kamaru Usman.

Muhammad would be more than happy to volunteer for that duty. Unbeaten in his past six fights, he’s climbed the rankings and even posted a message he sent to his manager Ali Abdelaziz as proof he’s already asked for the Chimaev fight.

“I have fans now like, ‘All these guys are going to be afraid to fight him.’ I’m like, not really,” Muhammad said. “I get excited to fight a guy like that. I get excited to show that I belong in there with these top guys. I would want to fight a guy like that so I could be the one to stop that hype train. Because then all of a sudden, you’ll steal all his hype and it will show that you’re that guy now. You’re that guy nobody really thinks of me like, ‘Oh who is [Kamaru] Usman going to fight now?’

“They’re trying to give him the title shot next just cause he’s winning so dominantly. I understand it. I understand the business. I understand the momentum, but he needs to fight somebody with better grappling. Somebody that can defend takedowns and stand up with him. Me, I just defended 21 of Demian Maia’s 22 takedowns, and I’m a guy that can strike with you, too and has a gas tank for days.”

While Chimaev is still waiting on his next assignment from the UFC, he has been attached to several possible matchups including Nate Diaz and Neil Magny, who has called out “Borz” on more than one occasion the past.

Nothing is booked yet, and Muhammad would actually like to see how Chimaev fares against a legitimate grappler at 170 pounds, which is a challenge he hasn’t faced yet in the UFC.

“I know [Neil] Magny’s trying to call him out but Magny really gets beat up against guys that grapple him,” Muhammad added. “He got outgrappled by [Michael] Chiesa, outgrappled by Maia, outgrappled by [Rafael dos Anjos]. So I don’t think that would be a good matchup for him style wise.

“For Khamzat, it would be just because he could showcase himself, but someone like me or Gilbert Burns or even [Vicente] Luque has really good takedown defense. Somebody like that I think would work out perfectly and really prove if he needs a title shot next right after that fight.”

With hopes to compete one more time before the end of 2021, Muhammad isn’t sure he’ll actually get the chance to face Chimaev next, but he’s ready to volunteer his services when the time comes.

“He’s looked so dominant, and we’ve only seen a small picture of him,” Muhammad said. “Now he’s adding the talking while fighting, the Khabib [Nurmagomedov] style to it. It’s exciting for fans and fans that don’t really understand MMA and just think that he’s going to walk through everybody and kill everybody just because of how easily he’s winning.

“But I think stylistically, our styles match up very well, and maybe it’s not one of those things where I think I’m going to go in there and dominate him, but I think I will definitely give him a bigger fight than anyone he’s ever fought before.”