By beating Vincent Luque at UFC Vegas 51 last weekend Belal Muhammad moved one step closer to securing a dream fight with Khamzat Chimaev in Abu Dhabi.
The American born, Palestinian bred welterweight is now up to #5 in the rankings. Meanwhile Chimaev is at #3 after winning a back and forth war with Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 the previous weekend.
Chimaev was born in Chechnya, and has come under criticism for his links to the country’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov recently, but is based in Sweden. Both men are Muslims and Muhammad thinks the fight would be the perfect headliner for UFC 281 which is set for Abu Dhabi,
“That would be amazing right there. To have two Muslims headlining a card in Abu Dhabi would be huge. You hear it all the time with people coming at me saying, ‘He’s a Muslim, why are you calling him out?’ But this is sport and we are all fighting for the same thing,” he told The National.
"There’s nobody in the division on a better run than me. There’s nobody in the division who’s fighting the guys that I’m fighting."
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Winning the gold
Muhammad has won seven out of his last eight with the closest thing to a blemish on his record during this period a no contest caused by an accidental eye poke.
He explained to The National why being fellow Muslims should not prevent him and Chimaev from going head to head,
“As a brother, I love the guy. As a competitor, I want to test myself against him and beat the guy. This is not life or death, this is a sport, and it is about winning the gold. And we both want that gold and both have to go through each other to get there.”
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During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic the UFC relocated to Abu Dhabi for a serious of Fight Island events. The biggest stars on the roster at the time such as Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov found themselves competing in the Middle East.
Muhammad’s parents were both born in Palestine which could potentially make him a big star in the Middle East. Chimaev has stormed his way up the welterweight rankings and the undefeated Swedish star is probably a big draw anywhere at this stage.
UFC 267 was the last event to be put on by the promotion in Abu Dhabi. It took place at the Etihad Arena last October and was headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between Glover Teixeira and Jan Błachowicz.