Top UFC welterweight contender Belal Muhammad has his eyes set on a matchup with Khamzat Chimaev, following his unanimous decision victory over Stephen Thompson at UFC Vegas this past Saturday night.
Muhammad spoke with MMA Fighting's Damon Martin to reflect on the win over Thompson and who he might want to face next as he ascends up the welterweight rankings. The 33-year old Chicago, Illinois native made it clear he'd take anyone ranked ahead of him but did also throw the names of former UFC title challenger Jorge Masvidal, and the undefeated Chimaev as potential next opponents too.
"Obviously everybody above me makes sense," Muhammad said. "I'm open to those, and below me, there's only probably like two names that make sense. Masvidal would make a lot of sense because he's number six. So I would definitely do that one. A guy that fought for the title twice, a guy that still has a huge following. Obviously, Khamzat would be another guy that I would be willing to put my position on the line for because he also has that hype, and he has that push from the UFC, where they think that he could be a champion and they think that he’s the next guy. So you go out there and beat a guy like that, you steal all of his hype, all of his shine. Then you just beat the boogeyman.”
He continued on to add why he would be willing to risk his current top-five ranking to face a fighter like Chimaev who is only 4-0 in the UFC currently.
“To me, rankings don’t mean anything. It’s about hype,” Muhammad said. “It’s about who the UFC wants to push and who’s that guy? Who’s that [Conor] McGregor now? Who’s that next big star? As we saw last year with [Jorge] Masvidal, where it’s like, you don’t have to be No. 2 to get the title shot. You don’t have to be No. 1 to get the title shot. It’s about who’s getting that push right now in that right moment. Right now in that right moment, [with] Khamzat, you get the most hype from beating a guy like him than anybody [else] honestly. Do I know why he’s got all this hype? He’s got four wins [in the UFC]. Do I think he’s this Terminator because of those four wins? No. Do I think that he’s this pay-per-view star because of those four wins? No. But the UFC does. If they think that, then I’m the one that’s going to have to put a stop to it.”