Belal Muhammad would welcome fights against either Khamzat Chimaev or Colby Covington next, but he only expects one to actually happen.
Fresh off a win over Vicente Luque at UFC Vegas 51, Muhammad has targeted a top-ranked opponent where a victory would ensure he receives a title shot. As much as he’s called out Covington, he believes a showdown with Chimaev is the more likely scenario.
While UFC President Dana White has said he wants to book Chimaev against Covington later this year, Muhammad isn’t convinced that will actually happen.
“I tell people they’re like ‘oh well Khamzat’s going to fight Colby’ and I’m like Colby’s not taking that fight,” Muhammad told The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Look who Colby is fighting, look who Colby is calling out.
“He’s calling out [lightweights]. Now that his tooth is broken, he’s probably going to be on the sideline for a couple of years until he gets some money from [Jorge] Masvidal.”
Covington previously has shut down talks about a fight against Chimaev before and after his win against Jorge Masvidal in March. A lot has happened since then: Chimaev vanquished one-time title challenger Gilbert Burns to make a huge leap up the welterweight ranks, while Covington dealt with a whole other kind of fight after Masvidal allegedly assaulted him outside of a restaurant in Miami.
Add to that, Covington previously has targeted former teammate Dustin Poirier as an ideal next opponent, which only further fuels Muhammad’s theory that he wants no part of Chimaev, much less any other ranked welterweight contender.
“I don’t think Colby’s going to take a fight with either of us,” Muhammad said. “He’s looking for somebody off losses, or he’s looking for a [lightweight], or I think he’s probably going to call out a Nick Diaz or a Nate Diaz. He’s going to wait on the sidelines for one of those type of fights. I just don’t think he’s going to take any tough matchups really.
“Like I said, I’m a guy that likes to stay busy, likes to stay fighting. I know Khamzat like to stay fighting, stay active so I think coming off back-to-back weeks of us fighting, I think that makes a lot of sense, especially with the title fight looming.”
Muhammad has even more motivation to go after Chimaev due to some pre-fight chatter he heard from the Chechen ahead of his fight with Luque. There’s also the reality of the title picture at welterweight if both of them continue to win.
“Khamzat was one of the trolls tweeting Luque knocking me out, so I have no respect for him,” Muhammad said. “I’m down to fight him. That fight would mean a lot to me. To beat a guy like that who everybody thinks is invincible and untouchable. Obviously, he had a great fight with Gilbert Burns. Nothing but respect for both of those guys but I definitely want to beat him. I want to be the guy that stops him.
“I don’t want to have no excuses over the next guy that I beat that they say, ‘Well [Khamzat is] still here, he’s going to get the title shot next.’ I knew that beating Luque, that Khamzat was still there. If Khamzat beat Gilbert Burns, I was going to be stuck in that, ‘Well Khamzat should still fight [Kamaru] Usman next.’
“So now if Khamzat fights Colby and I fight somebody else, if Khamzat beats Colby, he’s getting a title shot before me. So I’d rather just skip all that, fight him in a five-round fight, winner gets a title shot. It makes a lot of sense to me.”
Prior to the fight against Burns at UFC 273, Chimaev looked like an unstoppable machine just chewing through his competition with four finishes on his resume with his opponents landing just one significant strike combined against him. That all changed after he absorbed plenty of punishment from Burns over three rounds before ultimately gutting out a decision victory.
Muhammad already had ideas about how he could beat Chimaev, but seeing the slugfest with Burns only deepened his belief that it’s a very winnable fight for him.
“That’s what I wanted out of that fight,” Muhammad explained. “I like Gilbert, so I was rooting for Gilbert in general just cause we’re boys, but I wanted to see at least three rounds of it. I don’t care what happens, I just don’t want it to be a quick knockout on either side. I wanted to see what Khamzat really had in him. We got a lot of tape on him now. Now we see things.
“When I was training for him for the London fight when I thought I was going to fight him in London, I had watched tape on him already, I was looking for openings and the openings that I saw watching those tapes, I saw in the Gilbert Burns fight as well. I see a lot of openings. I think I’m very good at breaking down fighters and analyzing what it takes to beat those guys. I see a lot of ways for me to beat Khamzat.”