Belal Muhammad used to be nervous about approaching Khabib Nurmagomedov. The two have fought on UFC cards together in the past, but Muhammad never wanted to come off as the “fanboy” type to someone who he looks up to and just be another person that was going to ask him for a picture. Fast forward a couple years later and Nurmagomedov will be in Muhammad’s corner at UFC 280: Oliveira vs Makhachev.
Leading up to his bout against Sean Brady, Muhammad has been training alongside lightweight Islam Makhachev, who will be taking on Charles Oliveira for the lightweight title on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. Being able to train with Makhachev and Nurmagomedov has meant the world to the welterweight.
“To train with those guys and know how great they are, [training] with who I consider the G.O.A.T. in Khabib, be coached by him and train with the best lightweight fighter in the world, Islam, it was priceless,” Muhammad said. “The knowledge I gained from them, the feels I got from them, the looks I got from them, it was great.”
Muhammad considers working with Nurmagomedov and Makhachev more than just a team, but a brotherhood. They have welcomed Muhammad’s coaches in with open arms and everyone immediately clicked with each other. The respect between everyone is something that Muhammad is grateful for.
Needless to say, everyone in the gym is pushing each other to be the best version of themselves.
“We're all in the same mindset together,” Muhammad said. “We're all cutting weight together. You're not on this lonely road. When we do cardio, we're jogging together, shoulder to shoulder. We're pushing each other to go harder. It was cool to have all of us in that same type of mode.”
Muhammad knows the impact that Nurmagomedov has made on the MMA community worldwide and he isn’t taking that for granted. He is embracing all of the advice and feedback that the former lightweight champion has given.
“He's a champion,” Muhammad said. “He's got all the accolades in the world. He doesn't have to be here, he's got all the money in the world, but for him to give us his time and his knowledge, it just showed me, and made me want to work that much harder…it wasn't just for views or anything like that. He wouldn't just show up one day and then not show up. He was there to help us. He wants greatness out of all of us.”
The Rise Of Belal Muhammad
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The Rise Of Belal Muhammad
Muhammad will look to apply all of the lessons he has learned from Nurmagomedov against Brady, who is 15-0. The 34-year-old steps into the matchup against the Philadelphian a winner of his last three, coming out victorious against Demain Maia, Stephen Thompson, and Vicente Luque.
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On the other hand, Brady steps back into the Octagon for the first time since last November after securing a win against Michael Chiesa. He currently sits ranked at No. 8, whereas Muhammad is No. 5. Taking this fight against Brady is allowing “Remember The Name” to make another statement on his way to the top.
“[Taking this fight] means that I'm willing to fight anybody,” Muhammad said. “There was always that ‘Kamaru (Usman) was going to lap the division’ and that's what I'm on my way to do. I'm the only guy in the division, where after I beat Sean, is going to have five wins against top ten guys in the division.”
He feeds off the doubt that people have about him and is eager to showcase once again why he is going to be champion one day.
“I beat Wonderboy (Thompson), who they thought was going to knock me out,” Muhammad said. “I beat (Demian) Maia, who they thought was going to submit me. I just love that these people keep doubting me, keep thinking that I'm going to lose. Now I'm going against a 15-0 grappler guy who they think is going to out wrestle me and out muscle me. Saturday night, I'm sure to show you guys again that I'm going to be the champion.”
Muhammad said there was nothing that really impressed him about Brady’s game so far. In the past, he thinks people have come into the fight too worried about the fact that he’s undefeated. Being able to overcome the challenges and ups and downs of losing is what Muhammad believes has made him the fighter that he is today.
There’s no doubt in Muhammad’s mind that he’ll be the one getting his hand raised in Etihad Arena on Saturday night, and he has a plan for what’s to come after that.
“I think I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to take this title shot. The way I'm going to take this title shot is by finishing Sean Brady, and that's what I plan on doing.”
UFC 280: Oliveira vs Makhachev took place live from Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on October 22, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!