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Belal Muhammad aiming for breakthrough 2021: ‘I belong fighting these top-tier guys’,

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UFC welterweight Belal Muhammad will return to the cage on Feb. 13 in opposition to Dhiego Lima, and he hopes to combat in a five-spherical headliner by the end of the year.

After shedding a UFC Vegas 17 meeting with Lima on account of a optimistic COVID-19 test, Muhammad said he’s recovered from the virus after two weeks of leisure. Now, the goal is to rebound after a tough 2020.

“I belong in the rankings, and I belong fighting these high-tier guys,” he advised MMA Fighting. “If I accumulate two [wins], I are seeking to build up me a five-rounder.”

Muhammad’s desire to quit involving is now not ultimate pushed by competitors. Earlier this year, his father’s cell cellular phone store in his native Chicago became once vandalized all the arrangement thru the Unlit Lives Topic protests. Needing $20,000 to reopen the store, he said the family determined to switch on, a resolution that proved sound after trade closures on account of the pandemic.

Within the length in-between, he and his four siblings are supporting his fogeys. Other relatives who owned corporations accumulate also been suffering from the shutdowns.

“Now it’s on us to desire a see at and figure one thing out,” Muhammad said. “I’m thankful that the UFC has given us the alternative to combat and accumulate money.”

One colorful space of this past year became once Muhammad’s most most contemporary octagon look. A resolution over Lyman Honest at UFC Vegas 3 build him among the promotion’s high-15 welterweights; he currently sits at No. 13.

“Now I’m in a position to build up those gigantic-name fights because I am in the rankings,” Muhammad said. “Earlier than, I gained seven of my final eight, but I couldn’t accumulate a ranked guy, because they don’t are seeking to position their arrangement on the road. But now, I’m on the ladder, so it’s lawful rock climbing those rungs.”

Muhammad believes his space in the rankings encouraged Lima to signal on to a February bout. If he can note the direction of others who’ve gotten extra exposure by staying involving, he figures he’ll reap the rewards.

“Now with COVID, here’s the time the build guys can accumulate a reputation from themselves,” Muhammad said. “Kevin Holland fought five times, and his first four fights weren’t in opposition to one of the most biggest names, but when he fought a gigantic name like [Ronaldo] ‘Jacare’ [Souza], he performed, and now he’s one of many leap forward stars.”

One week away from his first scheduled bout in opposition to Lima, Muhammad had no desire but to slack down. He had refrained from social gatherings, taken nutritional vitamins and restricted his contact to some practising companions all the arrangement thru the pandemic. But on the Sunday ahead of UFC Vegas 17, he wakened at 4 a.m., shaking and shivering. He build a jacket on and sat shut to a heater, but the shaking wouldn’t terminate. So he called a doctor friend, who advised him to build up a COVID-19 test.

Muhammad had already taken one four days earlier as segment of the UFC’s pre-combat testing protocol, and it had change into up adverse. He opted to head to a handy guide a rough testing facility, now not fervent to roam to Las Vegas ultimate to be perchance change into away; warring parties and corners who test optimistic are required to quarantine or drive dwelling.

The optimistic test made Muhammad’s quick future clear. For the next two weeks, he grappled with a entire lot of signs of the virus – and boredom – as he sat lazy.

“The largest suppose became once waking up, and my fever would accumulate to 103, 104 [degrees],” he said. “I lawful had tons of of physique aches, and the shivering for 3 days. … After fights, you earned your meals and your cakes. But for this, it became once like, I became once drinking sloppy, and I didn’t accumulate my prize. It became once basically a tainted couple of weeks mentally, but I obtained thru it.”

With the exception of a petite cough, Muhammad said he hasn’t suffered any of the breathing considerations which had been uncover in a entire lot of athletes who suffered from COVID-19. He hopes to build up three or four fights this year and desire on the work on hand to warring parties who’ve been in a location to quit in form.

More fresh warring parties like Holland are an inspiration, but so are veterans like Jorge Masvidal. In a crowded division the build it’s laborious to stand out, Muhammad sees a direction to stardom by lawful staying in the game.

“You’ve seen with some guys, one thing will lawful click on,” he said. “Masvidal has repeatedly been the an identical guy. It lawful takes that one combat. To me, it’s all about momentum, and driving that wave on the coolest time. Fair being yourself.

“You don’t have to false it. You most ceaselessly is a Colby Covington and be false and strive to build up consideration from being ignorant and tiring like that, or that you can well presumably presumably be trusty and be yourself, and it’s going to plan on the coolest time. Masvidal is most likely one of many biggest stars, and he lawful stuck to his guns.”

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