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Belal Muhammad: Beating Demian Maia at UFC 263 solidifies me as welterweight contender

Belal Muhammad is ready to prove that he’s part of the welterweight elite when he takes on a perennial contender.

Muhammad (18-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) meets Maia on the main card of UFC 263, which takes place June 12 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.

It’s no secret Maia (28-10 MMA, 22-10 UFC) is one of the most prolific and dangerous submission threats in the sport, and despite mixing things up in his past fights, Muhammad will look to batter him on the feet where he thinks he has a significant advantage.

“There’s a blueprint for beating him and you’ve seen it with a lot of the top guys who all stuck with the same game plan of just defending the takedown and keeping it on the feet,” Muhammad told UFC Arabia. “For me, people look at his age and say he’s 42 or 43 years old, but he’s literally only lost one fight out of his last four – and he’s finished guys before that, and he’s fought only the best of the best.

“For his style, his jiu-jitsu style, you don’t need to be explosive. You don’t need to be the most athletic guy. He has that style, that boa constrictor style of once he gets you down, he’s just going to keep holding, holding and holding until you make a mistake. I know I’m better than him on a whole other level on the feet, so I’m just going to keep it on the feet.”

Although Muhammad saw a big opportunity slip away when his main event fight with Leon Edwards in March was ruled a no contest after he was inadvertently poked in the eye, he will still get the chance to climb the rankings when he faces multiple time title challenger Maia.

“I think it just solidifies me as one of those guys that’s a contender,” Muhammad said on beating Maia. “They’re always looking for who’s the next guy for (welterweight champion Kamaru) Usman. It’s all looking at rematches. Give him Colby (Covington), give him this, but those guys aren’t competing right now. Colby’s sitting on the sideline.

“Now it’s going to be a new name in the division where it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s still got this guy next,’ so he shouldn’t be thinking about moving up yet. He’s still got a guy on the way up, a new guy, a fresh face, so I think a win over him, it just shows … he’s not a gatekeeper. He’s like a title contender keeper. So you beat him, you deserve a title shot or you deserve to be in that title picture because only the best of the best beat him.”

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