Things couldn’t go much more wrong for UFC Vegas 21’s main event.
Originally set to be the long-awaited Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev scrap, that fight fell through yet again after lingering COVID-19 symptoms saw Chimaev coughing up blood from training (details here). A mad scramble for a worthy opponent led to No. 13-ranked Belal Muhammad stepping in ... only to have his eye poked in the second round so badly the fight was stopped and declared a “No Contest.”
All of the event’s narratives — Edwards returning triumphantly after 1.5 years away, a long-overlooked Muhammad finally getting a highly ranked opponent and his chance at welterweight contendership — crumbled in spectacular fashion off this bummer of an ending.
One small glimmer of positivity from all this negative business: Muhammad’s eye didn’t take any permanent damage, which is great news because the poke was gnarly, as shown via these pics and .gifs.
Later in the night, Muhammad provided an update on his situation through his Twitter account.
My heart is shattered my first main event ended like that but Gods the best of planners im sorry to the fans and the @ufc you deserved a full fight.. Alhamdillah the vision is coming back and no permanent damage to the eye I’ll be back and want to run it back @Leon_edwardsmma pic.twitter.com/5xsvhmZ5Uh— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) March 14, 2021
“My heart is shattered my first main event ended like that but God’s the best of planners,” Belal wrote. “I’m sorry to the fans and the UFC, you deserved a full fight. Alhamdillah the vision is coming back and no permanent damage to the eye. I’ll be back and want to run it back, Leon Edwards.”
It’s truly amazing that the poke didn’t cause any serious damage, opening up the possibility of a quick rebooking, which I think fans would agree is the best option to make Saturday’s mess of a main event right. Both of UFC’s remaining March events are sitting at 13 fights a piece, which means there’s room given the new apparent ceiling of 15 fights per card. The UFC’s April 10, 2021, return to network television on ABC could also use some extra hype behind it.
The biggest hurdle to setting this back up could be Edwards, who has shown himself to be a somewhat picky man to matchmake for in the past. Currently he’s campaigning to move right into a title shot against Kamaru Usman off the strength of his first round performance against Muhammad. We doubt that will gain much traction with UFC, but it’s by no means certain a rebooking of Edwards vs. Muhammad is what’s next. It sure feels like it should be, though.
UPDATE: Here’s Belal’s reaction to Edwards wanting to move on without a rematch.
Never saw someone act so tough after poking someone in the eye the fight was just getting goin and if your satisfied to end it on that note your soft you ain’t getting a title fight off that I took the fight on 3 week notice and came to fight run it back @ufc— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) March 14, 2021
For complete UFC Vegas 21: “Edwards vs. Muhammad” results and play-by-play, click HERE!