If there was a “nice guy” division in the UFC, Belal Muhammad would be going up against a third straight title contender as he prepares to face Vicente Luque after already defeating Demian Maia and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in his previous two wins.
Neither Maia or Thompson had a bad word to say about Muhammad leading into their respective fights, and thus far, Luque has followed suit, seemingly taking away some of the potential hype leading into the UFC Vegas 51 main event.
While Muhammad enjoys a little animosity from time to time, his motivation for the Luque fight comes from their first meeting six years ago, when he suffered the only knockout loss of his entire career.
“I’m not a guy that has to hate you, but I do have that little chip on my shoulder,” Muhammad told MMA Fighting. “A little bit of an edge because of how I lost to him, and he’s the only person in my career to finish me. I don’t need the animosity to fuel me for this fight, especially because of the stakes of this fight.
“We’re the only two fighters in the top-five fighting each other. We’re both winning fights and we’re fighting each other at our hottest points.”
For Muhammad, the rematch against Luque comes down to nothing more than competition, but he also understands how much attention is being paid to big time rivalries and matchups where the bad blood is boiling over between two fighters.
As much as he enjoys some good back-and-forth, Muhammad promises he’ll never manufacture beef with somebody just for the sake of making a few headlines. He knows that’s probably going to rob him of some opportunities. Knowing that burns a little bit, but he isn’t going to let that eat at him when it’s something that’s completely out of his control to change.
“I’ll just fight the next best guy,” Muhammad said. “Obviously, it’s in your head, people are asking you if the title shot’s next and you don’t want to give the same answer saying, ‘Oh I’m only worried about the fight in front of me.’
“Nowadays with big money fights and pay-per-views headlined by guys without titles like [Jorge] Masvidal and [Colby] Covington, it’s like there are other big names up there I could fight even after this win. Nate Diaz is looking for a retirement fight. He was calling out Luque for a while so I could call him out for a big money fight or maybe Masvidal or Colby.”
Right now, neither Jorge Masvidal or Nate Diaz are booked, but Covington has been attached to a potential showdown with Khamzat Chimaev after UFC President Dana White mentioned that as a fight he’d like to see later in the year.
Nothing is signed just yet, and if there’s one fight Muhammad would actively seek outside of a chance to compete for a UFC title, it would be Covington, especially after hearing the way the ex-interim welterweight champion went after Masvidal’s family and then doing the same to former teammate Dustin Poirier as well.
“It just shows that he’s literally a piece of trash,” Muhammad said about Covington. “He is a low life. To bring up a wife and kids — you don’t talk about somebody’s wife and kids. You don’t attack them. But then you’re going to keep doing that to copy [Conor] McGregor. Why? Cause you’re not original. You’re a loser. That’s one of those things like Dustin [Poirier] says, I’m not going to fight him in the cage, I’ll fight him in the street or I’ll fight him in the gym if I see him. Because when you’re talking about family or you’re talking about a wife and kids, it’s no longer professional. Those are fighting words.
“It’s no more you’re trying to sell a fight. You’re talking about my family. I’m going to hurt you. Colby definitely deserves to be hurt. Big coward calling out a 155-pounder, a smaller guy. Call guys that are at the top of the division.”
Muhammad may have avoided trash talk with his three most recent opponents, but that certainly wouldn’t be the case if he got the fight with Covington, who has initiated some truly vile verbal exchanges before and after almost all of his recent appearances in the UFC.
For his part, Muhammad would have no problem if Covington decided to come after him –he’ll happily return fire, except he won’t need somebody else coming up with his material.
“Go against me,” Muhammad said of Covington. “If the UFC offers me that next after I get this win, I’m going to take it right away just because my style matches up perfectly with his. Just to be able to slap that kid would be the best thing ever. If it’s the build up and he wants to talk, I’ll make him look dumb, because his trash talk is so dumb and it’s pre-written. If it’s live, we’re going back and forth, I’m going to make him look really stupid when he’s trying to use his little over the edge thing. I don’t take anything personally. I’m just going to come back at you harder.
“That’s one of the guys I’ve always wanted. Stylistically, I match up with him and outside for the build-up, I’ll definitely outclass him.”