Belal Muhammad: Islam Makhachev could go up to 185 and ‘beat Dricus du Plessis right now’

As Belal Muhammad embarks on his own chance to become champion at UFC 304, a big part of getting ready has involved Muhammad working alongside Islam Makhachev and his team as the UFC lightweight champ prepares to face Dustin Poirier on Saturday.

Muhammad and Makhachev have become regular training partners over the past few years. In addition to working with Makhachev, Bellator champion Usman Nurmagomedov, and others on that team, Muhammad has also enjoyed the benefits of training alongside retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who still helps out during training camps despite taking a step back from full-time coaching duties.

Muhammad says working with Makhachev, Nurmagomedov, and the rest of their crew has been invaluable as he prepares to take the UFC title away from Leon Edwards in July.

“I’m getting to work with who I think is the Michael Jordan of MMA. I get to work with Khabib,” Muhammad told MMA Fighting. “Islam right now is the Kobe Bryant, the LeBron James. They’re both the best to ever do it. Just getting that knowledge, getting that feel — you can see I got two black eyes going with these guys. It’s a different level going with these guys, just to get their opinions on stuff.

“Khabib is so smart and he’s so good at breaking down guys, and just getting the knowledge that he gives me — one day with Khabib is like getting 50 days with anybody else, because he’s so smart and he’s so good at everything. The little things he shows you will make a huge difference. It’s priceless to get to work with [those] guys. Every time I think about it, I’m like, [I’m] blessed, because I was always a fan of his, and 1717263967 I get to train with these guys and work out with these guys, and see what they do and see how they push, and they’re both champions.”

While Makhachev’s primary focus right now is defending his lightweight title against Poirier at UFC 302, the 32-year-old Russian has spoken openly about his desire to become a two-division UFC champion before his career is over.

Makhachev was even briefly floated as a potential opponent for Edwards when the historic UFC 300 card still needed a headliner, with a champ versus champ fight seeming like a natural fit.

Muhammad truly believes Makhachev has everything it takes to become a two-division UFC champion, but he knows the path to get there won’t go through him.

“I would never fight him, 100 percent,” Muhammad said. “But honestly, he could go up to 185 and beat [Dricus] du Plessis right now. I think he’s that good, really. I think he could go up there and be that two-division champ.

“Skip over 170 for a little bit, let me beat a couple of these younger guys, and then I’ll go up to 185.”

There’s little doubt in Muhammad’s mind that Makhachev could accomplish pretty much anything he sets his mind to, but he would never sacrifice a friend and training partner for a fight like that.

“He has plenty of time,” Muhammad said of Makhachev. “He’s dominating his fights. He’s winning easily. I think he’s going to continue on that path of just being a dominant champion. He’s got plenty of years left. He said something about it recently in an interview, saying, ‘I’m still hungry, I’m still here.’ So he’s got a long time to go.”

As far as incorporating more of that team into his own preparation for the fight against Edwards in July, Muhammad plans on cross-training with his own coaches and training partners while also working with Makhachev, Nurmagomedov, and the rest.

In fact, Muhammad admits he would love to have Nurmagomedov in his corner when he attempts to become a UFC champion for the first time.

“That would be priceless,” Muhammad said of Nurmagomedov potentially cornering him for the fight. “That would be amazing. Hopefully.

“We’re going to try to nudge his shoulder a little bit and do a little bit of begging. Hopefully. He’s been in the gym, he’s been working more. I’m hoping he gets the itch to be in a corner more.”

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