Belal Muhammad scored the biggest of his combat sports career at UFC 288.
Emanating from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, last Saturday’s event featured a high-stakes welterweight clash between top five contenders Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns. Coming into the bout with only a few short weeks to prepare, ‘Remember the Name’ delivered a memorable performance, dominating his Brazilian opposition en route to his 10th-straight victory inside the Octagon.
Days removed from his impressive performance, Muhammad spoke with EPSN’s Marc Raimondi to share his thoughts on the bout and what it means for his UFC title aspirations.
“It’s one of the biggest fights of my career. I risked it all for that one fight. It was all on the line, that one moment because this was five years of work building my streak to this point,” Muhammad said. “Getting there right out the door, knocking on the door, and to get a fight with three weeks’ notice coming off Ramada, I was like, ‘We just gotta go for it, man. No risk, no reward.’ For me to get a title shot after that, I was like, I had to do it. And then coming out there, I’m just blessed to be healthy. Make it through the fight. Get the W. Get the big win. A dominant win and God is good.”
Days leading into the bout, fans suspected that Muhammad may have been suffering from an ankle injury. Reports of seeing him limping along with a picture of the fighter’s left ankle looking compromised raised some concerns leading into the event. Asked if there was any truth to the speculation, ‘Remember the Name’ said:
“You go into fights all the time with injuries. I was sitting there like, ‘Who’s the rat in my camp?’ But like I said when you rush things right away. I’m trying to go balls to the wall in two weeks, injuries happen,” Muhammad continued. “Stuff happens, but I was like, once it gets to fight night, I had to push through it because I know that once the adrenaline starts pumping, you’re not really going to feel anything anyway.
“For me to take a fight on two weeks’ notice and then try to pull out the week of, that would give me the worst look ever. There’s no way I’m gonna let that happen. God makes this happen for a reason. God pushes everything for a reason. He tested stronger soldiers and we could get through this. We could get through anything and I think we got through it.”
As it turns out, Muhammad simply rolled his ankle while running. Adjusting his training regimen, he avoided cardio and focused on game planning. Despite the setback, things clearly worked out as he left New Jersey with a decisive decision victory.
Belal Muhammad on Training During Ramadan
During his brief training camp, Belal Muhammad was also observing Ramadan, a commemoration of Muhammad’s first revelation in the Muslim community. Asked how training during the month-long period of fasting and reflection affected his training, ‘Remember the Name’ revealed that Ramadan makes his mind stronger which allows his body to push through anything thrown at it.
“I think Ramadan makes my mind the strongest it’s ever felt and my mind will push my body through anything,” Muhammad said. “I was like, ‘Whatever, man. We’re here, let’s do it. All we can do now is go out there and fight and whatever happens, happens.’ That mindset got me through it and you know, I felt good honestly for 25 minutes. I felt smooth. I felt energetic and I still could have gone for a couple more rounds.
“It tells me how much better I could be. If that was three weeks, imagine me at eight weeks. It tells me also that I usually overtrain in my camps where I don’t have to overthink a lot of stuff a lot of the time too where I’m like, ‘Oh, I need to do this, this, and this.’ If I could feel this good in three weeks and I didn’t have to do all that extra work, maybe my next fight I’ll make a couple adjustments.”
‘Remember the Name’ Hopes to Fight for the UFC Title in Abu Dhabi This October
As far as his next fight, Muhammad is expected to fight the winner of a slated welterweight title clash between reigning champion Leon Edwards and two-time UFC title challenger Colby Covington. Like many, Muhammad doesn’t quite understand what Covington has done to earn a third title opportunity by comparison but is willing to wait for ‘Rocky’ and ‘Chaos’ to settle their business.
However, Muhammad would prefer to get the next title opportunity, challenging Edwards when the promotion returns to Abu Dhabi in October.
“Honestly, I hope they do it as soon as possible to get it over with so I know who I’m fighting next. Leon [Edwards] had his fight. He just fought so I’m hoping he wants to go again in the summer or I’m hoping that if he does want to fight in October, Dana will just let me fight him in October,” Muhammad continued. “I think it makes the most sense in the world. I hope he says like, something that hits him in the head like, ‘Man, wait. Why am I giving this dork (Colby Covington) a title shot? He did absolutely nothing. He’s been out for two years. His last win was against No. 12 in the world.
“This guys on a 10-fight winning streak. Five top 10 fighters on his resume. And Abu Dhabi, it would be the biggest show that I think you could have in Abu Dhabi if you had me fight there for the belt. It would be amazing so, we’ll see. Hopefully, that happens, but Dana White seems like he’s planning on this Colby fight so hopefully they get that one done this summer if it does happen.
“I’m cool with waiting. I’m getting better. I’m growing with every single fight and all that time is just going to make it worse for these guys. I’m just gonna be a way better version of myself every single month that passes by.”