Belal Muhammad feels it’s inevitable that he’ll be the UFC welterweight champion.
It’s been quite the run for Muhammad inside the octagon, going unbeaten in his past 10 fights since January 2019. Thanks to a decisive five-round unanimous decision over one-time title challenger Gilbert Burns this past month, Muhammad moved up to No. 3 in the official UFC’s 170-pound rankings and No. 4 in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings. As a result, “Remember the Name” has been informed that his long-awaited title shot is in his immediate future.
Unfortunately for the exceedingly active Muhammad, it looks like he’ll still have to wait an extended amount of time for that promised opportunity despite having earned it. UFC President Dana White has maintained his stance that former interim titleholder Colby Covington is on deck for the champion Leon Edwards first. Nothing has officially come together surrounding that matchup, giving Muhammad a little bit of hope he can jump “Chaos.” Even if he does have to wait, Muhammad argues that it only strengthens his chances of becoming champion.
“We’re guaranteed a title shot. We just gotta wait and see what happens with these two dorks, Colby and Leon,” Muhammad told The Schmo. “There’s nothing that’s coming from it, so for me, it’s like, I’m hoping that Dana’s realizing that yo, we got this guy who’s actually fighting. A guy that took a fight on three weeks' notice, guy that came off the couch, guy that came and dominated a ranked opponent, during Ramadan. We called him, we needed him, he came and showed up. So maybe we’ll give him a title shot in Abu Dhabi like Leon wants, which makes the most sense. I’m hoping that’s what happens, but you never know.
“If I have to wait, I’ll wait. I’m only going to keep getting better. It’s only going to get worse for Colby or Leon, whichever one of them guys is next because I’m just gonna be a different version. Every fight you guys see me getting better, growing, and to see what I could do to a guy that’s No. 3 in the world, one of the best fighters in the world Gilbert Burns on a couple weeks’ notice. What do you think I’m gonna do on eight weeks’ notice? Or three months' notice to one of these other two guys. I think Gilbert was the hardest fight out of the three. So them other two guys are gonna be easier fights so it’s gonna be an easier path to victory for me.”
Whatever happens next with the welterweight title picture will clear things up for the rest of the top contenders. Before Muhammad and Burns made their UFC 288 clash a reality, Muhammad was staring down the possibility of testing undefeated 17-0 finisher Shavkat Rakhmonov. Now, the Kazakhstan native is stuck without any logical next opponent with everyone booked or involved in the messy title debacle.
The two outliers in former champion Kamaru Usman and superstar contender Khamzat Chimaev are seemingly seeking a fight, whether at 170 or 185 pounds. With Usman fresh off back-to-back losses to Edwards for the title, he too is in an odd spot like Rakhmonov. For Muhammad though, he feels the “Nigerian Nightmare” should still be the champion and he’ll be happy to defend against him after the drama gets sorted out how he ultimately expects.
“I’m excited to see Usman fight again,” Muhammad said. “I don’t think he should go up to 185 because if you beat him (Chimaev) you’re probably gonna be fighting for the title next and he’s not gonna fight ‘Izzy’ [Israel Adesanya] so it’s just knocking off another contender at 185 for no reason. So, if Khamzat makes 170, that would be a great fight but I doubt he can make 170.
“Honestly, I think for him, being a champion that long, you’re looking for that big name, right? You want the big fights because you’ve been fighting in title fights your whole time. I think he sits there and he waits and if Leon loses the belt to me, which I think is going to happen, I’ll give him the title shot because he was that long-reigning champion. I don’t think he lost that third Leon fight so I’ll give him that title shot for sure.”
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