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Belal Muhammad only interested in Leon Edwards, Kamaru Usman or Colby Covington next: ‘I’m only looking upwards’

UFC 280: Muhammad v Brady Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

When Belal Muhammad watched UFC 286’s post-fight press conference, he anticipated an eventual question that may address his future, with hopes that he’d hear his name called as the No. 1 contender in the welterweight division.

What actually unfolded was rather shocking: Not only did UFC president Dana White declare that Colby Covington will get the next shot at reigning champion Leon Edwards, he also noted that and the UFC is working on a fight to pit Muhammad against undefeated up-and-comer Shavkat Rakhmonov in the near future.

That definitely came as a surprise to Muhammad, who had never been approached about the Rakhmonov fight until he heard it mentioned following UFC 286.

“I was sitting there watching it like, ‘I want to see what he’s going to say, I hope somebody asks him what’s going on and who’s next,’ and I was hoping he would say, ‘We don’t make fights after the title fight.’ But then he came out and said Colby [Covington] was for sure [next],” Muhammad told MMA Fighting. “You’re sitting there and, ‘We’re trying to make Shavkat [versus Belal].’ I was like, what? Where did this come from?

“I’m calling my manager like, what’s going on? He’s like, ‘Brother, I don’t know what’s going on.’”

In the wake of everything, Muhammad recently met with White and the UFC to discuss what’s next for him, although it doesn’t appear any decisions have been made just yet.

For his part, Muhammad says he’s never backed down from a challenge, but after recently dispatching another unbeaten prospect in Sean Brady, he’s not really interested in taking another step back in the division while trying to gain consideration for a title fight.

“I’m never a guy that shies away from the tough fights,” Muhammad said. “I’ve been calling for the toughest fights forever and he’s obviously on a good run, a streak, but I just beat the hot prospect [in Sean Brady]. I just beat the guy that was 15-0. He’s a dangerous fighter, but to me it’s still fighting backwards. It’s fighting downwards. It’s fighting another guy that [if] you beat him, ‘Well, he wasn’t as good as we thought he was. Who’s that?’

“After beating Sean Brady, [I heard], ‘Oh, Sean Brady sucks, he’s nobody, you think you’re going to get a title shot off of that?’ I’m sitting there thinking if Sean Brady would have won, Sean Brady would have got the title fight. Sean Brady would have been next in line because he would have been 16-0 and they’re like, ‘This guy is amazing!’”

Ideally, Muhammad could still fight for the title next, so he’s certainly not giving up hope, especially without any signed contracts between Edwards and Covington.

Until that’s officially out of reach, Muhammad will continue to push for a shot at gold. But if that’s ultimately unavailable, he’s only interested in champions, former champions, or the fighter the UFC suddenly declared as the No. 1 contender in the division.

“For me, now, I’m only looking upwards,” Muhammad said. “The only guys upwards are Colby, Leon, and Kamaru. Kamaru didn’t take no damage in this fight and he’s still fighting, he’s still talking about fighting — I think that’s a fight that makes sense. I’ve had to the two title challengers in my résumé, I beat Demian Maia, I beat ‘Wonderboy’ [Stephen Thompson]. I had the hot contender in [Vicente] Luque — I beat Luque. I had the hot prospect in Sean Brady. The only thing I don’t have on my résumé is that name everybody recognizes, everybody knows, and that was a former champion. A guy that people consider one of the best welterweights to do it.

“If that’s the name that is going to get me a [title] shot — if it’s going to be somebody, it’s going to be either Usman, Colby, or Leon. It’s only fighting upwards from here. I think that’s the only way I’m going to be guaranteed anything.”

If Usman is unavailable, Muhammad still believes a showdown with Covington makes the most sense to truly determine who should get the next title shot against Edwards.

Muhammad knows that UFC champions typically only compete twice per year, which means Edwards may not fight again until late 2023, so he doesn’t see a reason that Covington — who has already been out of action for over a year — should just sit and wait.

“I’m hoping Leon sticks to his guns and he does turn him down, and he says, ‘I’m not going to fight Colby,’” Muhammad said. “If that’s the case, me [versus] Colby. You see all this trash talk, Colby’s acting like he’s the best in the world, you supposedly just had a camp to weigh-in — cool, let’s fight in Miami. Let’s fight the week after. Let’s fight in June. I’m down to fight whenever. I’ll fight Colby next.

“Let’s get right back in the cage right now. Let’s do it. Then you could silence all the doubters that [say] you didn’t earn it, you didn’t deserve it, why are you getting it? Let’s fight. Leon just fought.”

Edwards has been adamant that he’s not going to give Covington a title shot because the always outspoken welterweight hasn’t earned it by going 2-2 in his past four fights.

Muhammad can only hope Edwards is serious about shutting down Covington, which would allow him to continue pursuing that fight so a legitimate contender could be crowned.

“Stick to your guns,” Muhammad said while addressing Edwards. “Don’t say yes to that fight. Let me fight Colby and the winner of that gets next.”

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