Chicago, a city where bloodshed is the norm. Ninety murders in August alone. Ninety. Three hundred and eighty four shootings, too. Four hundred and seventy two shooting victims in a single month. Chicago, a city UFC welterweight Belal Muhammad calls home.
Muhammad is looking for change. He’s looking to bring more attention to MMA. He’s looking to grow as a UFC fighter. Most importantly, he’s looking to spread a positive message not just through Chicago, but everywhere it can be heard. The fighter’s coach, Louis Taylor, even went so far as to change his own nickname to “Put The Guns Down.” If only their message can be heard above the echoing sound of gunshots.
Muhammad, the former Titan FC welterweight champion, fights out of the troubled “Windy City,” but he also trains with Roufusport in Milwaukee. He has had two outings in the UFC, and he’s now in preparation for his third UFC fight since July.
Muhammad is coming off a win against Augusto Montaño. He took the fight personally due to Montaño’s history with steroid use, which included a positive test in 2015 and a one-year suspension handed out by the UFC.
“Honestly, I wanted to finish him,” Muhammad told ChicagoLandSportsRadio.com host and Combat Press writer Mike Pendleton. “I knew he had never been finished before… And the whole steroid thing, it honestly does piss me off when I see fighters doing that. It messes up the sport and it hurts the image of the sport.
“It keeps letting the public think that we are just a bunch of meatheads, and there’s not any respect in the sport, just a bunch of guys in a cage fistfighting. It’s really not. It’s an artform. It should be a sport. It should be people respecting each other. It shouldn’t be guys taking steroids. It should be a fair fight to see who’s the better athlete and better mixed martial artist.”
Muhammad still trains at local UFC gyms throughout the city of Chicago. He maintains that his arrival in the UFC won’t change what he does or who he is.
“I’m not going to change things just because I’m making more money now,” said Muhammad. “I’m going to stick with the things and people that got me here.”
Muhammad remembers his roots. They’re firmly planted in a city where too many people have died. Many athletes have used their status to preach a message or make a stand. Muhammad is hoping more gyms open in the Chicagoland area. He hopes that fights can be had with just fists, preferably the wrapped variety that sport four-ounce gloves. Maybe then, people will put their much deadlier weapons down. Early in his UFC career, Muhammad has taken on a heavy workload, but he carries this even heavier message with him.
Muhammad is not in the UFC to have crazy callouts or to flood social media with requests for a possible opponent. He just wants to work. The welterweight suffered a loss against Alan Jouban at UFC Fight Night 90 in his Octagon debut. He bounced back with his win against Montaño at UFC Fight Night 94. His next goal was to land on a pay-per-view card. He got his wish.
Muhammad is now set to face Lyman Good in New York at UFC 205, one of the most anticipated fight cards in UFC history. The event will be the UFC’s first foray into New York since the state voted to legalize and sanction professional mixed martial arts.
A former titleholder himself, Muhammad joins a long list of fighters who want money fights.
“If you’re not bringing any ratings in, you’re not going to get paid,” said Muhammad. “You got Conor McGregor getting paid ’cause he sells out all his pay-per-views [and] Nate Diaz ’cause he has the same thing. They’re needle-movers. If you’re not a needle-mover, you’re not going to get paid. So go in there, do work, be exciting in the fight and then go get paid.”
There’s a reason Muhammad’s nickname is “Remember The Name.” It’s all about everything he brings with him as a UFC fighter. Between his time with Taylor and at Roufusport, Muhammad has put together all the skills to display his true talent as a mixed martial artist. His willingness and eagerness to work and stay busy, combined with his talent, is more than enough to suggest a potential bright future for his UFC career.
Chicago. It’s a place with far too much violence. Muhammad dreams of a day when it won’t be this way. He dreams of a day when the city’s fight isn’t in the streets, but in the gym. He’s a humble man, and he will make you remember the name Belal Muhammad.