Belal Muhammad will be fighting in Abu Dhabi but he won’t be facing Khamzat Chimaev. The welterweight, who is of Palestinian descent, has been matched with Sean Brady at UFC 280.
The event is set for the Etihad Arena on October 22nd. This is currently the only fight on the card and was announced by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto yesterday:
Big business here at welterweight. No. 5 vs. No. 9 in the official rankings. Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) vs. Sean Brady (@seanbradymma) is verbally agreed for Oct. 22 in Abu Dhabi, per sources. pic.twitter.com/z2DodT19HS
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) July 8, 2022
Back and forth
Muhammad was born and raised in Chicago but both his parents are from Palestine. He was hoping to fight Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 280 and the two went back and forth a bit on Twitter.
Chimaev declared he would not be willing to face Muhammad if his opponent was representing Palestine and the two seemed to reach an amicable agreement to fight one another in Abu Dhabi. But they are fighters not matchmakers and the UFC decision makes don’t seem to share their enthusiasm for the bout.
Respect bro ..Il bring a flag for you too and we both fight FOR Palestine.. I can’t bring the flag down to battlefield anymore even if I wanted to. But…
دمي فلسطيني 🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) June 9, 2022
Instead #5 ranked Muhammad (21-3) has been matched with #9 ranked Brady (15-0). It represents an opportunity for the latter to crack the top five but certainly won’t serve as the sort of title eliminator which the former is after.
Muhammad has won seven out of his last eight and the sole blemish on his recent record was a no contest. It is the sort of form which title shots are made of and he might have felt he was within touching distance.
But by matching him with a lower ranked fighter the UFC has effectively put the brakes on his title ambitions. It is far from an easy fight for Muhammad though.
Brady will be bringing a perfect professional record into the fight that includes five UFC wins. He made his amateur debut back in 2012 and holds a black belt in BJJ.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 17, 2021
During the pandemic the UFC declared that Abu Dhabi was ‘Fight Island’ and in total there have been 16 events held there. The country first hosted a card in 2010 but has emerged as a destination for some of the biggest fights in recent years.
His Palestinian roots make Muhammad a fan favourite in the Middle East. The 33 year old put in one of the best performances of his career there in 2019 when he submitted Takashi Sato in the third round at UFC 242.
Some of the biggest UFC fights of recent years have taken place in Abu Dhabi. Between them Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor have headlined several cards there.
UFC 280 will surely get a big title fight at the top of the bill. But right now the welterweight bout between Muhammad and Brady is the only one on the card.