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Rep: Leon Edwards won’t ‘die on the hill’ for not giving Belal Muhammad title shot over Colby Covington

Colby Covington’s position as No. 1 welterweight contender rubbed a few MMA observers the wrong way, to say nothing of the man most inconvenienced by the UFC’s decision: Belal Muhammad.

Tim Simpson, who reps Leon Edwards for the Chosen Advisory Group, said Covington didn’t initially own his privileged position. Jorge Masvidal, who infamously brawled with Edwards backstage in 2019, was the frontrunner. But then “Gamebred” fell short against one-time title challenger Gilbert Burns and then retired.

“In reality, we were waiting for what happened with Masvidal and Burns, because if Masvidal goes and knocks out Burns, him and Leon, regardless what you want to say about who deserves it, that would have been one of the biggest fights we could do in the sport at the time,” Simpson said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “Him and Leon for the title. So we were waiting for that. Obviously, Jorge didn’t win.

“So then it was like, ‘Well, what do we do now?’ You’ve got Gilbert, Belal and Colby, and then Belal and Gilbert fought, Colby’s ranked high – if you got to pick, Colby probably moves the needle the most, makes Leon the most money. He doesn’t think it’s a particularly hard fight. And the UFC wants it.”

Muhammad is unbeaten in his past 10 fights and further solidified his case for a title shot with a win over Burns. But UFC President Dana White subsequently named Covington, who weighed in as a backup for Edwards’ trilogy with ex-champ Kamaru Usman at UFC 286, as the No. 1 contender.

From a sporting perspective, Muhammad is the obvious favorite over Covington, who is 2-2 in his past four fights after a pair of failed bids for Usman’s title. The decision, however, comes down to the UFC, which ultimately signs off on title challengers.

“Obviously, that’s their preference,” Simpson said. “So I don’t think we’re going to plant our flag and die on the hill to say, ‘No, we want to fight Belal instead of Colby. It’s a partnership. So they’re like, ‘We prefer Colby.’ Leon’s like, ‘We’ll do Colby then.”

Edwards initially balked at the idea of fighting Covington, but Simpson said that was more gamesmanship than anything else.

“When it first happened and he no-sold it – which is great – I think a bit of that was a few years ago, Colby no-selling him,” Simpson said. “Now, he no-sold him in London.

“Leon said to me – I don’t wanna break the fourth wall here – he doesn’t give a f*** who he fights. Winning the title, he doesn’t give a f***. But it was nice to get a little nudge back.”

So Edwards vs. Covington will be the next welterweight title fight, assuming no more hiccups in scheduling, negotiations, or injuries.

“We said we were ready to go from August,” Simpson said. “His foot was pretty banged up after the [Usman fight] – he like came out and he got like an infection type thing in the bone. So his foot was pretty banged up.

“[The UFC was] trying to maybe do a pay-per-view in July back in the UK, but I don’t think ESPN wanted to do it, because of the time difference. So then we said he’s good from August. Obviously, they’ve got [Sean] O’Malley [vs. Aljamain Sterling] in August. Then September in Australia, doesn’t really make sense. So I guess he’s good to go as soon as they know what they’re doing.”

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