After several false starts, British UFC welterweight Leon Edwards finally has an opponent for next month’s UFC card after American fighter Belal Muhammad agreed to step in for the Covid-struck Khamzat Chimaev.
Edwards, who hasn’t competed in the UFC cage since a July 2019 win over Rafael Dos Anjos, has been one of the more unfortunate fighters throughout the UFC’s coronavirus era. Just over a year ago a scheduled UFC London main event against former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley fell apart just days in advance of the weigh-ins after inhibiting restrictions were announced by the UK government.
Soon after, Edwards was forced to turn down a potential title bout with Kamaru Usman for the same reason – and then came the sequence of THREE cancellations of the Chimaev fight.
Edwards had strongly maintained that he wanted to keep the original March 13 date intended for he and Chimaev, and first targeted top welterweight contender Colby Covington but the brash MAGA-supporting firebrand was, for one reason or another, not agreeable to the fight.
Step up Belal Muhammad.
Respect for Belal for stepping up when no one else would. March 13 I show I am the best in the world. #StrapSeason
— Leon ‘Rocky’ Edwards (@Leon_edwardsmma) February 18, 2021
The 32-year-old veteran has bubbled somewhat under the radar but can point to an impressive resume of eight wins in his last nine fights, including a unanimous decision win against Dhiego Lima at last weekend’s UFC 258 event in Las Vegas.
For Muhammad, this represents a seismic opportunity to parlay his impressive sequence of wins into title candidacy of his own. A win against Edwards – winner of eight straight fights – would surge him up the rankings in the direction of champion Usman.
And with the three accepted top contenders – Edwards, Covington and Jorge Masvidal – all showing prior losses on their record to the reigning titleholder, a new face at the summit of the rankings could be exactly what the welterweight division needs.
Of course, the odd man out in this particular scenario is Edwards’ previously scheduled opponent Chimaev. Forced to withdraw from the March 13 date due to the lingering effects of his Covid-19 infection, Chimaev must not plot a new course to the business end of the UFC’s welterweight rankings.
Edwards has distanced himself from rekindling the scrapped fight, saying that he will be chasing the world title next – potentially leaving Chimaev a more crowded route through the UFC’s welterweight field.