When Belal Muhammad suffered a nasty eye poke against Leon Edwards that led to their fight being stopped and declared a no contest, he was more than ready to run it back as soon as he could see straight again.
Unfortunately, Edwards showed no interest in a rematch with Muhammad, who accepted the fight as a short-notice opportunity after replacing Khamzat Chimaev in the UFC Vegas 21 main event this past march.
Since that time, Muhammad has gone on to beat a pair of former title contenders in Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Demian Maia but he’s still gotten no response when calling for another shot at Edwards — and he’s not expecting the British welterweight to answer anytime soon.
“I don’t [think he’ll fight me],” Muhammad told MMA Fighting. “I think he’s playing the politics game. He knows that I’m a bad matchup for him. Before, he had that excuse ‘oh he’s [ranked] No. 12 it doesn’t make no sense for No. 3 to fight No. 12.’ Well now [I’m ranked] No. 5 — now what’s your excuse? There’s a card coming to London, why not?”
The UFC is currently plotting a return to London in March but Edwards is resigned to waiting for a title shot against reigning champion Kamaru Usman after going on a 10-fight undefeated run in the division.
While holding out for a title fight could pay off in the end, UFC President Dana White has often said that sitting and waiting rarely ends up with the desired result, which is why he typically tells everybody to stay as active as possible.
Muhammad is heeding that advice by targeting anybody ranked ahead of him at 170 pounds or targeting opponents such as Chimaev or Jorge Masvidal in his return to action in early 2022.
“That’s why I think that it pushes me better if he’s going to sit there and wait,” Muhammad explained. “Usman, he’s an active champion, he deserves some time off to be with his daughter and family and things like that. So he’s earned that. So if he wants to wait until next summer, if I get one more big name win in before Leon, I literally fought eight times while Leon’s fought three times in the last two or three years.
“I’m the one pushing. I’m the one being active. Dana White says he likes active fighters. He doesn’t like these people waiting. So if I go out there and get a big win, I think I earned to definitely skip in front of him.”
Truth be told, Muhammad feels like his current resume already trumps Edwards just based off quality wins in the division.
“I feel like I’ve earned a skip in front of him already just based off of the level of opponent I’ve fought,” Muhammad said. “I’ve fought Maia and Wonderboy back-to-back. Who did he beat? [Rafael] dos Anjos and Nate Diaz, who are both [155-pounders].
“He hasn’t fought any ranked 170-pounders that are actually ranked and good right now. It doesn’t make any sense to me but I’m not going to sit there and cry about it. I’m just going to get back on the horse and keep fighting.”
If Edwards isn’t willing to face him and he doesn’t get a big-name opponent like Chimaev or Masvidal, then Muhammad is more than happy to turn his attention to another ranked welterweight who he’s been calling out for years.
Two-time title contender Colby Covington still maintains an iron grip on the top spot in the division — “Chaos” is the No. 2 welterweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — behind Usman, and Muhammad would love nothing more than to face him to prove he’s ready for the champion.
That, and Muhammad would really like to silence the always outspoken Covington in the cage.
“That’s one I’ve literally been calling for, for years. Probably like five years,” Muhammad said when addressing Covington. “Even before he got into title contention, rankings, any of that. I’ve always wanted that fight. Just because he’s another guy that a lot of guys didn’t want to fight him because of his style. To me, I think my style is better than his. I think I’m a better version of him. I think I have better grappling, better cardio and way better striking than him.
“He gave Kamaru a lot of problems with that style. I think me fighting him, beating him dominantly, a guy that Dana White says would be the champion if Usman wasn’t here. I think would definitely put me over the top and a guy I would just like to punch in the face. Just out of pure hatred for the guy.”