At the end of 2017, after adding a third win to the streak he was then riding, UFC welterweight Chad Laprise made a pair of requests.
“I would love to fight a guy like Belal Muhammad or Yancy Medeiros,” Laprise said at the time. “Guys who are kind of like established veterans. Guys who I respect, who’ve been around a long time, who would bring a good fight to me.”
That’s when it hit Muhammad, who was then two unanimous-decision wins into his current four-fight streak.
“I’m like, ‘What the hell, I’m a veteran now?” Muhammad recently told MMAjunkie Radio. “It was just funny when he said that.”
At 30, Muhammad is by no means an old fighter. But he’s no newbie, either. Before even joining the UFC in 2016, Muhammad had unbeaten stints through Bellator and Titan FC. His first loss would come in the octagon, on his “Fight of the Night” debut effort against veteran Alan Jouban, and he’d only lose once more, to Vicente Luque.
Now, riding consecutive wins over Randy Brown, Jordan Mein, Tim Means and Chance Recountre, it’s safe to say we’re past “promising prospect” territory here and very much dealing with a reality.
As for when, exactly, that shift occurred? For Muhammad, it was when Jesse Taylor was pulled from a UFC Fight Night 121 meeting, and he saw himself paired with none other than “The Dirty Bird.”
“When I first got into the UFC I was like, “One person I don’t want to fight is Tim Means,” Muhammad said. “Just because he’s such a dangerous fighter, man. I have always watched him coming up and I just always loved his elusive style, he’s just so nasty with his elbows and stuff, you’re like, ‘Damn, what would I think about if I fought him?’”
“… After I was able to stand up with a dude that I always saw, ‘Damn, he’s a monster standing up, Tim Means is so good.’ And I was able to beat him standing up. I felt like at that point like, ‘All right, now I know I belong, time to make my move up that ladder.”
Muhammad (14-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) is set to take another step up that ladder Jan. 19 at UFC on ESPN + 1 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he meets Geoff Neal (10-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) in a preliminary card welterweight bout.
It’s been established that Muhammad’s record is no joke. He is, however, the betting underdog heading into the match with the less experienced Neal. On his end, Muhammad can understand those odds; Neal has, after all, knocked out his two UFC foes, as well as his “Dana White’s Contender Series 3” opponent.
But on the other hand, Muhammad adds, Neal has never faced anyone like him. Not that any of that matters, anyway.
“I love being the underdog, man,” Muhammad said. “When people don’t believe in me, or think that I’m going to go in there and just going to lose, that’s when I fight at my best. That’s why I wanted to take this fight. I’m on a four-fight winning streak, I could have fought someone ranked, or somebody up there, but I know this guy is a tough guy.
“He’s a tough up-and-comer that they think is going to be the next star. So I’m going to go in there, beat him, kill that train and then get my ranked opponent.”
A fifth straight win is certainly a solid asset in a stacked, if a little complicated welterweight division.
This week, after months of back-and-forth and some indecision involving champ Tyron Woodley and stripped interim champ Colby Covington, the UFC determined that Kamaru Usman would be the one fighting for the undisputed title next.
But Muhammad – who, for full disclosure, is a training partner of champ Woodley’s – isn’t really moved by Covington’s public pleas.
“That division is really good, but (it’s) so crazy that a lot of these guys are afraid to fight each other,” Muhammad said. “They’re on long winning streaks, because no one wants to fight each other. Like, usually guys on winning streaks should be fighting each other, to see who’s better. Like, same thing with Colby Covington, everybody’s all upset that he didn’t get the title shot over Usman.
“But he was saying, ‘I was healthy in March, I was healthy for November, but Woodley was hurt.’ I’m like, If you’re a so-called champ, like you say you are, then why didn’t you fight Usman on that other card, the Anaheim card (UFC 233)? You could have picked that fight and fought him … Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts live Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.
- Dominick Reyes wants to be one to dethrone Jon Jones, offers keys to beating UFC champ
- Joseph Benavidez signs new four-fight UFC deal – at flyweight
- Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (8 p.m. ET) with Anthony Smith, Gilbert Burns, Dominick Reyes
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Belal Muhammad to fellow UFC welterweight Colby Covington: 'Don't talk about it, be about it'