Belal Muhammad (16-3) returns to the octagon this weekend, where he’ll take on Lyman Good in a promising welterweight battle.
Good was the first UFC fighter diagnosed with COVID-19, something he announced earlier this year. Now healthy, the two will throw down on the UFC on ESPN 11 main card, after originally being set for UFC 249 in April.
Muhammad is clearly happy to be back. And he has no qualms about fighting during the coronavirus pandemic, something he took some of his peers to task for.
“A lot of these guys are losing opportunities right now. They’re using the pandemic to not fight so they can save the number next to their name,” he told Cageside Press at the UFC on ESPN 11 media day. “A lot of these ranked fighters don’t want to fight right now, they’re just sitting out, ‘oh I can’t train during this quarantine.'”
Muhammad doesn’t buy it. “You’re a UFC fighter. You get a key to the gym. You can go in there and train. There’s a lot of things you can do,” he retorted.
“I feel like a lot of guys are just using this time to be lazy, or just trying to save their spot,” Muhammad continued. That, despite the rankings being “trash,” as he later called them.
There are plenty of opportunities, however. And some fighters are jumping at them, he pointed out. “You see other guys like Gilbert Burns, fighting twice, already fighting for the title. He’s only been in the weight class literally for like two years, four fights, and he’s now he’s fighting for the title. It’s just all about opportunity. And he was always ready for that opportunity.”
“That’s what I want to be. If I’m healthy after this fight, I want to turn around right away and get back in there,” Muhammad added.
Muhammad gave another example, in Dan Ige, who landed his first main event in July. “This is the time where you make a name for yourself, where we’re the only sport on TV. People need something to watch, and they’re going to be paying attention to the guys who are actually fighting.”
Of course, Muhammad isn’t always super serious. He’s actually known as having one of the better senses of humor in the sport. But asked how many fighters have a good sense of humor, he replied that “the percentage is low, man.”
“Usually when you go to different things and meet a bunch of different fighters, everybody just has that attitude where their chest is up and they want to look at you tough,” observed Muhammad. “And you’re like ‘relax, I’m a fighter too. We don’t need to fight right now, I’m not even in your weight class.'”
“During this quarantine it’s been funny to see different guy’s personalities come out. Because there was no fights on, so you couldn’t show anything. So it was all about social media and how you interacted with fans and stuff like that,” he continued.
“Honestly one of the guys I thought was hilarious that I didn’t know was Darren Till. He got a follow from me after that. The guy’s pretty funny.” Till, it should be noted, has been roasting Mike Perry of late, going so far as to launch a website mocking the welterweight.
The time for joking around will be over come Saturday of course. Lyman Good is a former Bellator champ, coming off an impressive win over Chance Rencountre at UFC 244. Muhammad is pretty positive heading into the bout, regardless of Good’s pedigree.
“I have many more ways of winning this fight. I feel like his only way of winning this fight is catching me. Trying to knock me out. For me, I can do it anywhere. I could out-strike him, I could out-grapple him, I could out-wrestle him,” Muhammad suggested.
“I could do whatever I want in this fight, I feel like,” he added. While you don’t want to be overconfident, Muhammad cautioned, “I’m very confident right now. I feel like I’m going to make a statement out there. Especially with the platform we’re on, we’re the only sport on, so I’m going to go out there and make a name for myself right now.”
Watch the full UFC on ESPN 11 media day scrum with Belal Muhammad above.