Khamzat Chimaev is set to take on Colby Covington next but not everyone is enthusiastic about this fight. Belal Muhammad believes he would be a much stiffer test for the undefeated Swedish star than the former champion.
The welterweight is of Palestinian descent and coming off a big win at UFC 281 in Abu Dhabi. He told MMA Fighting that he should either be challenging for the title or facing Covington next,
“I think that’s literally the only fight to me. For me, it’s Leon (Edwards) or Khamzat and I think that us two makes the most sense.”
Muhammad points out that Covington’s recent record is not particularly impressive,
“I know they’re talking about Colby but I don’t think Colby’s going to take that fight. Colby hasn’t taken a hard fight or a fight against a guy coming off a win since Kamaru (Usman). Kamaru is the only guy he’s fought in his last eight fights that wasn’t on a two-fight losing streak,” he said.
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Muhammad does not appear to have too much time for Covington. He points out that the American has not exactly been beating opponents in their prime,
“Colby, he gets the credit as the guy that would be the champion if Kamaru wasn’t there, but who’s he beat? He beat Masvidal on a three-fight losing streak. He beat Woodley on a five-fight losing streak. Other than that, it’s been nothing but lightweights. Why is this guy getting all this credit in the world when I’m the guy that’s beating ranked guys?” he asked.
The #5-ranked welterweight then championed his own recent record by pointing out he had beaten four top ten ranked opponents in the last year,
“Nobody else is beating multiple top ten guys. Even Khamzat’s only win against a ranked guy is Gilbert Burns, and that was a close split decision and he came in 9lbs overweight for his last one. I think I’m right underneath Kamaru (and) should be #2 in the division rankings-wise. The fact that they still have Colby there doesn’t make any sense.”
Covington hasn’t fought since beating Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision at UFC 272. He reportedly suffered facial injuries during an altercation with the same fighter at a restaurant a few weeks later.
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Muhammad is coming off of a second round TKO win against the previously undefeated Sean Brady at UFC 280 and thinks he would be a much tougher matchup for Chimaev,
“I definitely do think I’m the harder matchup. I think my striking is way better than Colby’s and I’m comfortable being in that fire, that last fight with Khamzat he fought with Gilbert Burns (and) when he was in that fire, he got emotional and he started going against the game plan (and) he got tired. Colby’s not comfortable being in that fire, he’s not comfortable there.”
“For me to fight a guy like Khamzat, I study tape more than anybody in the game. I already know what I would do for a fight like that. I know what I would bring to the table for a fight like that. I already know what I need to do. If I do get that fight, I’ve already been ready for that fight. I already wanted that fight so much. I do think I’m the hardest matchup in the division for anybody.”
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Covington once claimed that the UFC had told his manager they were going to cut him from the promotion ahead of his Demian Maia fight in 2017. It was around this time that the former NCAA wrestler ‘turned heel’ and changed his public persona.
Covington is now seen as one of the biggest villains in the UFC. Muhammad believes that the American’s well practised schtick is the only reason that matchmakers are keen to give him the Chimaev fight,
“Why are you pushing that one so hard? Because Colby’s going to say stupid things at a press conference to get him revved up? I think people would definitely want to see me versus Khamzat. It’s going to get the same amount of eyes, same amount of views. It’s a more meaningful fight for the division than the Colby fight.”
Muhammad questions whether Covington’s trash talking will translate into pay per view buys and is adamant he is the better match for Chimaev,
“Yeah, Colby’s going to say some outlandish stuff, he’s going to get some clickbait out of it, but I don’t think he’s a pay-per-view draw that Conor McGregor is or Masvidal is. He’s not that guy. There’s nothing to gain from pushing that Colby fight. Me and Khamzat are the only ones in the division winning right now. We’re the only ones active right now. I think we should be the ones in the cage.”