Belal Muhammad blames Leon Edwards for title fight delay: ‘It’s fueling me with hatred for this guy’

For Belal Muhammad, things have gotten personal with Leon Edwards.

For nearly a year, Muhammad has been the presumptive next title challenger for Edwards’ UFC welterweight championship, but the fight has yet to be made as Edwards first dealt with former interim champion Colby Covington. But as 2024 drags on and there’s still no sign of a title fight in Muhammad’s future, “Remember the Name” believes that’s a sign that Edwards does not want the smoke with him.

“When you have all of these guys talking for you, that just tells me you’re that coward that’s hiding behind them,” Muhammad told MiddleEasy.

“You’re the champion of the world. If you’re the best fighter in the world, fight the best guy in the division that’s right behind you. I have the longest winning streak in the division. I’m the one beating all these guys. … I know I’m the best in the world, and he knows I’m the best in the world. That’s why he’s trying to avoid this fight, because I’m the toughest matchup for him. He’s trying to do anything he can do to hold onto the belt as long as possible.”

Tensions have been high between Muhammad and Edwards for years, dating back to their first fight in in 2021 that ended by no-contest after Edwards inadvertently poked Muhammad in the eye and he was unable to continue. Afterward, Muhammad wanted to run things back, but Edwards dismissed the idea in pursuit of other matchups. And now as Edwards continues to downplay him as a title challenger, it’s really cementing Muhammad’s feelings on the welterweight champion.

“I hate his guts,” Muhammad said. “The last fighter I fought that I had dislike for was Sean Brady. That was just because he was talking all this trash. … For the Leon fight, they’re trying to avoid me. Him trying to act like — downplaying my accomplishments and telling me I don’t deserve it, I never earned it, that stuff does nothing but piss me off. It’s fueling me with hatred for this guy, and I just can’t wait to get in there and get my hands on him.

“My last four or five fights have been against guys that are so nice. Demian Maia, Wonderboy, [Vicente] Luque, they’re all nice guys. Obviously, getting extra motivation to fight guys that you dislike, it’s easier. For those guys, it’s a little bit harder. But for Leon Edwards, I’ve been training for this guy for two years. My prime focus has been on him. I’ve been thinking about nobody but him. And when I go through him, he’s going to go back to irrelevancy and nobody is going to think about him anymore.”

Of course, it might not be Edwards who is preventing the fight from happening. UFC CEO Dana White announced that a welterweight title defense was one of the options to headline UFC 300, however the three fighters they proposed for Edwards all fell through for various reasons. Muhammad, famously, was not one of those three challengers. Ultimately none of those proposed fights happened though and Muhammad says that’s because that was just promotional smoke and mirrors.

“People can say whatever they want,” Muhammad said. “They can say, ‘Oh, well Dana said he offered the fight to three other people!’ None of them fought, right? I think it’s more Dana White trying to hype up a champion that can’t hype up himself. Dana White, being the promoter he is, has to make it seem like, ‘Leon Edwards, this beast, said yes to three dominant guys and they all turned it down because they’re afraid of him because Leon is so good!’ But Leon sucks. He sucks at fighting, he sucks at talking, he sucks at promotion. And when I fight him, I’m going to show you guys how bad he is.”

Muhammad may end up getting his shot. UFC 304 is rumored to take place in Manchester, England this July, with an Edwards title defense allegedly planned for the main event. As the No. 2 contender in the UFC welterweight rankings, Muhammad appears to have the inside track should that come to pass, and if so, he’s ready to head across the pond to finally settle up with Edwards.

“One hundred percent,” Muhammad said of fighting in England.

“Me going out there, taking his home soil, beating him in front of that crowd over there would be amazing. I went to London for a UFC event once and the crowd energy was nuts. I was like, bro, I’ve got to fight here. Fans were crazy. They were there from the first fight on, and you feel it in the air when you’re over there. So for me to be able to go down there, people are just going to doubt me even more, and that doubt does nothing but fuel me, so that would be the fairy tale ending to my story to get this belt.”

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