Belal Muhammad isn’t sitting back in silence while Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) Welterweight title picture continues to unravel.
The division’s title was contested over this past weekend (March 18, 2023) in London, England when reigning champion, Leon Edwards, returned home for a trilogy tilt. Tasked once again with his rival, Kamaru Usman, Edwards bested the former titleholder, this time scoring a majority decision victory to follow up his epic Hail Mary head kick knockout in the rematch (watch highlights).
Watching closely in the crowd was two-time title challenger and former interim champion, Colby Covington, who acted as the bout’s back up fighter. At the post-fight press conference, UFC President, Dana White, confirmed that Covington was next for the champion despite other active and streaking contenders like Muhammad continuing their success.
“I’m just glad that people are starting to notice it now and realize it,” Muhammad told the Anik & Florian Podcast. “Even if you’re not a fan, you have to respect the work I’ve put in, what I’ve gone through. I’m on an eight-fight winning streak, I’ve won 12 of my last 13 fights. It’s not like I’m beating nobodies, I’m beating ranked guys. I have more ranked wins than the champion. I have more ranked wins than the former champion that wasn’t rematches. I have more ranked wins than all these guys and I have the fourth-longest winning streak in the history of the Welterweight division and I’m not even being mentioned in the title contention when Dana comes out and says, ‘Colby’s next for sure.’ It just doesn’t make any sense.”
It’s been one full year (March 5, 2022) since Covington last fought, rebounding with a unanimous decision over bitter rival, Jorge Masvidal (watch highlights). The pair have been embroiled in a legal battle ever since, leaving Covington silent in the public eye until his random recent appearance at UFC 286.
The thought for many ahead of UFC 286 and the upcoming UFC 287 on April 8, 2023, was that UFC would wait to see what happened between Masvidal and Gilbert Burns in the evening’s co-main event. Masvidal’s history with Edwards plus a singular win presumably could have been enough to get a title shot, and Muhammad understands and was nervous about the concept.
Covington, though? It feels less clear than any other option for “Remember the Name,” who claims he was dodged on the same event as this past title bout.
“His last win was Masvidal who is — if we’re talking about rankings — No. 12,” Muhammad said. “If we’re talking about wins, he’s lost two in a row and he got knocked out before that fight [with Covington] against Usman and still didn’t finish him. Colby almost got finished in that fight by Masvidal. How does he just jump the line?
“He didn’t want to fight me in London when we were asking for that fight,” he continued. “Dana can say, ‘Oh, we were trying to make these fights for Colby and they just fell through ...’ They’re not falling through on my end. We didn’t ask for more money, we didn’t ask for a higher rank, a higher paycheck, I’m not [Paulo] Costa. I’m saying let me fight the motherfudger for free. Let me fight him for what I’m getting paid right now. There’s no negotiations on my end when you guys are just saying, ‘No.’”
Muhammad — clearly the odd man out in the 170-pound title chase — will have to prove once more that he has earned a championship opportunity when he locks horns with No. 6-seeded boogeyman, Shavkat Rakhmonov, winner of five straight inside the Octagon.
No date or venue for Muhammad vs. Rakhmonov is known at this time.