Livescore Thursday, April 25
Newsletter
[gtranslate]

When UFC President Dana White and UFC matchmakers make a decision, it’s not that easy to direct them the other way. They are the bosses, the ones with the final say.

However, Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad could convince them to determine a new welterweight contender if they blow the roof off the Prudential Center on May 6. 

Burns and Muhammad face off in the co-main event of UFC 288, fighting on two weeks’ notice following the loss of Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush on the card. A five-round affair, the battle between the top-five ranked fighters in the division (Muhammad at four and Burns at five) could determine the next opponent for Leon Edwards, the UFC welterweight champion. 

That is if the UFC lets go of the thought that Colby Covington will be next in line. 

“The way I take it (a title opportunity) is by going out there and smashing Gilbert Burns and showing them, ‘Bro, there’s no way you can sell a Leon vs. Colby fight if I go out there and smash Burns,’” Muhammad told The Sporting News’ Andreas Hale.

MORE: Sign up to watch the UFC 288 PPV, exclusively on ESPN+

In March, White declared Covington the next in line to face Edwards right after the latter beat Kamaru Usman in a trilogy fight. Fighters, fans, and media members questioned the decision, as Covington is 2-2 in his last four and 0-2 in title fights. His last bout was a win over Jorge Masvidal in March 2022. By looking at the resumes of UFC 288’s co-main event fighters, there is some validity to the questioning.

Muhammad (22-3 with one no-contest) turned pro in 2012 and joined the UFC in 2016. “Remember the Name” is 13-3 with one no-contest for the promotion and is on a nine-fight unbeaten streak, facing some of the best in the division. He last fought in October and patiently waited for the UFC to knock on his door regarding a title opportunity. 

Burns joined the UFC in 2014 and is 15-5 with the promotion. “Durinho” is 3-2 in his last five and is on a two-fight win streak. His last bout was at the beginning of April, beating Jorge Masvidal at UFC 277. 

Following the bout, Burns told the media he wanted a title opportunity and even threatened to walk if not. He was not confident he would get a crack at gold until right after his press conference. 

“After the fight, Dana and Hunter (Campbell) stopped me on my way out of the doctor, and they said I’m next,” Burns explained to The Sporting News. “If I wanted, I could do a backup. And the main thing was they said it in private, you know? They didn’t make it public that I was going to be next. Two days after, Leon said he’ll fight in October, and I said that was so much time to wait. A lot of things can happen if I sit down and wait… I saw an opportunity.”

MORE: What does Aljamain Sterling think of his doubters heading into UFC 288?

Once the Muhammad fight was offered, Burns was back to training by that Monday.

Everyone in front of Muhammad and Burns has faltered. With a title shot in question, even though Muhammad stated in the interview that if he wins this bout, he would be next, they will leave no stone unturned. 

For Burns, he sees this as a matchup between two great fighters. From what he has endured, he believes risks have helped him grow. A win will help him secure a new contract and a title opportunity. 

“I know I’m going to show up. I know this is five rounds, I’m going to push him around. I’m not a quitter, he’s not a quitter. It’s going to be a big fight,” Burns said. “But I think those unnecessary risks I’ve been taking: fighting Khamzat (Chimaev), fighting Neil Mangy in Brazil, fighting Jorge in Miami, the quick turnaround, and fighting Belal Muhammad… Taking those risks put me in the position I am today. I had to take so many risks in my life. Back in 2007, I was living in Rio, I wasn’t making money, but everything was taken care of… but the training wasn’t the same. Everybody was going MMA. Then I had to move to Sao Paulo and dropped out of college to do Jiu-Jitsu. 2007 was as crazy as ever. And I had to take that risk. Working security training, giving it all, and working super hard. Eventually, it started to pay off…. There was no coming back after.”

Muhammad is not looking too far ahead, but knows what he wants. He is ready to win welterweight gold, move to 185, and face Israel Adesanya. Confident in his abilities, Muhammad has beaten all the top fighters at welterweight, so where would he go from champion in the division? 

As far as how the fight goes, both believe it will be an all-out war. One mistake could cost the other a potential shot at gold. Who will have the better stamina, power, and fight IQ on two weeks notice? 

MORE: Henry Cejudo timeline, explained: From retirement to UFC 288 title fight

“He gets a lot of credit for going three rounds with Chimaev, but Chimaev’s not that good to me… I know that I can beat Chimaev. Gilbert Burns is not that good to me. He’s another guy I know I can beat,” Muhammad said. “There’s nobody in the top five I look at and think, ‘Man, this would be a tough fight.’ I think I’m better than all these guys, which is why I’m willing to take this fight on two weeks’ notice. I know I can smash these guys. On an eight-week camp, I’ll dominate these guys. In a two-week camp, I’m going to beat these guys impressively.”

“It’s going to be a war. I’m already anticipating it,” Burns said. “All my visualizations from my training, in my heart. I got to be ready for it. I know he’s not a quitter. I got to hurt that guy real bad. Maybe get a good position, a finish, or get him out of there. Otherwise, even if I knock him down, he’s just going to come back up and keep coming. He’s one of those guys; he’s hungry as me, he has the heart… he wants that title. The guy’s dangerous, he knows how to win. He has a good IQ as a fighter. I am not a quitter; I have a big heart. I think we’ll steal the show. Even on short notice. We’re coming forward, fight of the night right there.”



Read the full article here

Leave A Reply