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Belal Muhammad wants to beat Leon Edwards and remind Kamaru Usman there’s another fighter he still has to face

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When Leon Edwards needed a new opponent for UFC Vegas 21 this weekend, former interim champion Colby Covington seemed like the most logical choice to face him.

It’s the fight UFC president Dana White wanted to book but Covington declined the offer, which then led to the promotion seeking another option. Fresh off a win over Dhiego Lima just a few weeks ago, Belal Muhammad jumped at the opportunity to face an opponent like Edwards.

After clawing his way into the top 15 rankings with four straight wins, Muhammad was hoping for a chance to take a step up in competition and it doesn’t much sense to him that other fighters didn’t have that same mentality when Edwards became available.

“In the end, we’re prize fighters. These guys are forgetting about that,” Muhammad said during the UFC Vegas 21 media day. ”When you’re sitting there on the smaller circuits and you dreamed about making it to the UFC, that was your goal making it to the UFC, you took any fight that was in front of you. You were willing to fight anybody. You’re sitting there fighting for peanuts.

“Now that you’re in the UFC, you’re getting a little more money, you’re forgetting what you were in this game for from the beginning — to be the best, to be the champion.”

The way Muhammad sees it, to eventually have a chance to become UFC welterweight champion, he’s going to have to go through a long list of contenders so it doesn’t matter much to him when it comes to the order he’ll face them.

If all goes well this weekend, Muhammad would obviously love a title shot but if that doesn’t happen, he’s not going to suddenly start turning down fights just to protect his new position in the division.

“To be the best, you have to beat the best and you have to fight all the best guys,” Muhammad said. “Everybody nowadays, they’re picking and choosing who they want to fight. The right move, the right mode, the right guy to take, the right timing to take the fight.

“To me, I could beat anybody in this division. I know I’m good enough to beat anybody in this division. I know I can be a champion in this division so that’s why I’m willing to say yes to anybody. So I’m not afraid of fighting anybody.”

That said, Muhammad knows what a win over Edwards will do for him, especially considering the British welterweight is currently riding an impressive eight-fight win streak into the UFC Vegas 21 main event.

Earlier this week, White added to the stakes with this fight by saying “100 percent” that Edwards would be next for a title shot with an impressive victory.

With reigning champion Kamaru Usman cemented at the top of the division without a clear-cut No. 1 contender right now, Muhammad would love to send him a message with his performance on Saturday night.

“It’s one of those where I’m going to show people who I am,” Muhammad said. “I’m going to show people that there is another name in this division that Usman has to fight. They’re talking about him moving up to [185 pounds] and being double champ. No, there’s still another guy in this division that you haven’t beat yet.

“He’s already beaten Leon so I understand him not really wanting to do that again, take that fight again so once I beat Leon, I’m right there at No. 3. That’s new fresh blood in the division. He’s beaten all the top five guys in the world except maybe ‘Wonderboy’ (Stephen Thompson) but now it’s another fresh name, fresh blood, fresh personality in that top five.”