The UFC 288 co-main event is scheduled to feature a fight between Burns and Muhammad. This fight is crucial for the welterweight class. Whoever wins, in the opinion of both men, ought to be a potential contender for the UFC Welterweight Championship.
In the world of mixed martial arts, fighters often face tough decisions in pursuit of their ultimate goals. For Gilbert Burns, that meant accepting a fight with Belal Muhammad despite being one step away from a title shot. While this decision may seem puzzling at first glance, a closer look reveals the reasoning behind it.
Burns had been one step away from a shot at the UFC welterweight title after his impressive victory over Jorge Masvidal. However, with no clear timeline for when current champion Leon Edwards would be ready to defend his belt, Burns found himself in a holding pattern.
Meanwhile, fellow contender Colby Covington was immediately promised a matchup against Leon Edwards soon after his first title defense against Usman, who is widely regarded as one of the top welterweights in the division. However, that bout has yet to materialize, leaving Covington in limbo as well.
With both Burns and Covington stuck in holding patterns, the UFC offered Burns a matchup against rising star Belal Muhammad when the co-main event between Charles Oliveira and Beniel Dariush fell off the main card of UFC 288. While Muhammad may not have the same name recognition as some of the other top fighters in the division, he is a dangerous opponent with an eight-fight winning streak to his name.
Even though a victory over Muhammad would guarantee Burns a shot at the title, the Brazilian fighter saw it as an opportunity to stay active and potentially skip over Covington in the pecking order. Speaking to reporters during a media day session ahead of UFC 288, “Durinho” explained:
“Leon Edwards gave an interview saying he’s injured, and he’s not looking to fight right now and just fight in October, and that’s when the first time I said, ‘OK, I have to fight,’” Burns said. “Then a couple of days after, I saw Charles Oliveira pulled out (of UFC 288), and I saw an opportunity there, but I was just thinking, ‘Who?’”
“Sean Shelby hit me up and said, ‘We don’t have Colby. He’s not available. He’s going to fight for the title, but we have Belal Muhammad,’” Burns recalled. “And I said, ‘Done.’”
Burns further said that UFC officials had promised whoever came out on top of this UFC 288 contest an opportunity at the welterweight belt. It is still to be observed if the UFC will truly abide by that alleged assurance.
For fans of the sport, the matchup between Burns and Muhammad is an intriguing one. Both fighters are well-rounded and possess the skills to finish the fight on their feet or the ground. And with so much on the line for both men, it promises to be a high-stakes affair.