When Khamzat Chimaev was still just a prospect looking for a top-ranked opponent to face him, Belal Muhammad was more than happy to answer that call.
In truth, Muhammad asked repeatedly for the opportunity to fight Chimaev. He even thought that he almost landed it back in March when UFC suggested a main-event slot. Unfortunately for Muhammad, the fight never materialized but he never gave up hope on ending the hype surrounding the undefeated Chechen.
Following a convincing win over Vicente Luque in April, Muhammad renewed his calls for the fight against Chimaev, but says he kept hearing excuses why the bout wasn’t put together.
“I’m sitting there like Khamzat is not booked. “Why am I not fighting Khamzat?” Muhammad stated on The Fighter. The Writer. This makes the most sense because we are the two men in the Top Five who haven’t yet fought Kamaru [Usman]. You’re hyping him up. I was calling for the Khamzat fight before Luque. Khamzat was what I wanted. Even before the ‘Wonderboy’ [Stephen Thompson] fight I was like let me fight Khamzat and they kept just brushing it off.
“I was like OK, I just beat No. 5 [ranked fighter] in the world, he just beat No. 3 in the world with Gilbert [Burns], this makes the most sense. That was what I expected. I was calling to get it. But, all the time, I hear he has visa problems and he won’t fight. Then you started hearing the rumors about him and Nate Diaz and how does that make any sense?”
Despite repeated calls to face Chimaev in his next fight, Muhammad just couldn’t get the UFC to commit to the matchup and that’s when he started hearing the name Sean Brady instead.
With a perfect 15-0 record, Brady is considered one of the best prospects in the welterweight division but doesn’t have the same kind of name power or resume as Chimaev.
Of course, when Brady got the call with an offer to potentially face Muhammad, he was more than happy to accept and that’s when a back-and-forth war of words started on social media.
“You see Sean Brady calling me out on Twitter and I’m like I’m not going to give this guy any attention but the southside Chicago comes out and you’re like let me start responding to him,” Muhammad said. “We were supposed to fight before so when he’s saying stupid stuff like ‘you’re running from me,’ I’m like didn’t you pull out of the first fight?
” Then, he gets a loser manager and starts tweeting out. Finally, you have the trashy Philly people commenting on my post “you’re afraid”. I will wait for Khamzat .”
Gilbert Burns had just lost to Chimaev at a barnburner in May. Muhammad, however, preferred the matchup as the Brazilian was a title contender once again and still holds a place among the top welterweights of the UFC.
Although Muhammad began to see that the fight was unlikely, he still believed that Chimaev would be his opponent.
“You see Gilbert and [Jorge] Masvidal talking about fighting each other,” Muhammad said. “Obviously, Gilbert is going to fight Masvidal for money, and that fight will be a lot easier than mine so it gets annoying. Khamzat and me still make the most sense, since they haven’t yet booked Nate Diaz’s fight.
” Then, my manager called me and said that he wanted to sell you Abu Dhabi [at UFC 280], because it would be great for you. I was amazed at how amazing the fight there was. I always wanted to go back, especially now and then they sold me on Abu Dhabi and I was like me and Khamzat there, that would be huge.”
That’s when Muhammad was told yet again that Chimaev wasn’t available.
“Khamzat’s still having issues, he’s not going to fight right now and all they have is Sean Brady,” Muhammad said. They have one other option right now. That’s what the UFC wants to force on me.
“He has hype in the MMA community, he’s 15-0. Fans don’t really know who he is but the MMA community knows who he is. He has hype from fighters. The UFC believes he can become a champion, so if I walk past him and go to the fight, I don’t mind fighting him. To prove that I am a champion I must go through everyone. I figured I’ll take it, let’s go.”
While beating Brady won’t earn him the same kind of accolades as earning a win over Chimaev, Muhammad was just tired of waiting and didn’t want to end up sitting out until 2023 just waiting for a fight.
As for Chimaev, he did eventually get matched up with Diaz. Muhammad was able to see the signs as soon as the fight announcements were made.
” The Khamzat issue was that they wanted to ensure Khamzat won so they could give him next title shot,” Muhammad stated. “Cause if he fights me, I’m a tough matchup for him and they showed in the Gilbert fight by the fourth or fifth round, he’s going to slow down against anybody.
” They wanted him to win so that we could get the Usman fight. We can also get Diaz’s supporters .”
As it turns out, Chimaev didn’t end up with the Diaz fight either after he had a disastrous weight cut that ultimately scrapped the bout just 24 hours prior to the event. In a quick-notice fight at catchweight, Chimaev defeated Kevin Holland and he has been contemplating moving up to middleweight.
If Chimaev sticks around at welterweight, Muhammad would still be interested in that fight but right now he can only think about Brady and their matchup at UFC 280.
” I want to focus only on [Sean Brady], and then let’s watch how the other guys do in the coming months,” Muhammad stated. “But yeah, it’s going to be interesting what happens with this division.”