Belal Muhammad calls Leon Edwards mentally ‘weak,’ ‘easily broken’

For the past three-plus years, Belal Muhammad has been calling for a rematch against Leon Edwards. He finally gets his wish when he challenges Edwards for the welterweight title in the UFC 304 main event on July 27.

Initially, Muhammad only wanted to settle some unfinished business from when he stepped up as a short-notice opponent for Edwards at a UFC Fight Night main event back in 2021. On that night, Muhammad suffered a brutal eye poke that didn’t allow him to continue and the fight was declared a no-contest.

He immediately asked to run it back, but Edwards effectively ignored the callouts, leaning on his dominant start to the fight and seeing no reason to accept a rematch. Since that night, neither fighter has tasted defeat and Muhammad believes Edwards made an error by waiting so long for the rematch — now with his welterweight gold on the line.

“This was literally the biggest mistake of his life,” Muhammad told MMA Fighting. “Even dragging this fight out as long as possible because I’m getting better every single day. I’m not a guy that stays out of the gym. We’re growing. Now you’ve got a guy that’s been watching you for a full year. Even when I trained the backup role, I’ll show you text messages where I sent my boys [messages] like, ‘Can we do film study?’ I’d be like, I’m only breaking down film on Leon. I don’t really care about Colby. Colby’s an easy fight.

“So the whole time we broke down film on Leon and we took that as a full camp. Now having back-to-back-to-back camps all on you. I’m growing my own skills to your weaknesses. So the worst thing you could have did was give me time. The worst thing you could have did was [give me] extra time. You should have took me back then.”

As he studied Edwards in hopes that he would eventually earn that rematch, Muhammad got to know the 32-year-old UFC veteran rather well. He started recognizing tendencies and habits in his fight style, especially when he was preparing for grappling-heavy opponents like Kamaru Usman or Colby Covington.

While Edwards ended up beating Usman twice and just recently earned a decision win over Covington, Muhammad saw enough in those performances to feel like he’s actually built to dismantle the reigning UFC welterweight champion.

“I think when you look at stylistically the reasons why they thought Colby would be a bad matchup for him — it was cardio, it was pressure, it was taking him down, keeping volume in his face and I do all of those better than Colby,” Muhammad said. “I do all of those better than Usman.

“Usman in that third fight, he wasn’t the same Usman. People can say whatever they want. I think he came back too soon off that head kick [knockout] but in the second fight, it was volume, pressure and it was breaking Leon, and Leon’s easily broken.”

That fight back in March 2023 saw Edwards down on the scorecards heading into the final round when he uncorked a vicious head kick that ended Usman’s title reign. When they fought for a third time just nine months later, Edwards eked out a majority decision win to retain the belt and effectively close the book on their rivalry.

Muhammad believes it was the fight where Edwards won the belt that actually changed him moving forward because he struggled to deal with Usman’s pace, pressure, and wrestling before landing the knockout late in the fifth round. In his two subsequent performances, Edwards was victorious, but Muhammad recognized right away how that rematch with Usman changed his style for the worse.

“He’s got weak mentality,” Muhammad explained. “He’s not strong enough to go in there and figure it out on his own. Once he starts getting on his backfoot, he starts breaking. Once he starts getting taken down, he starts breaking. Once he starts getting hit, he hates it.

“His last two fights that he’s had, it’s been more ‘Let me stay on the outside, let me keep the pace at what I like it at’ and Colby let him keep it at the pace he liked it at. Usman in that third fight let him keep the pace at what he liked it at, let him keep the distance at what he liked it at and when I’m in there, it’s not going to be that at all. I’m going to be in your face for the whole 25 minutes.”

Since that no-contest with Edwards three years ago, Muhammad scored lopsided wins over several top 10 opponents including Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, Vicente Luque and Gilbert Burns while also delivering an emphatic knockout of highly touted grappler Sean Brady.

In many ways, Muhammad believes those fights were tougher tests than what he’ll face against Edwards on July 27, which is why he believes his UFC title reign starts with another shutout performance.

“I honestly think it’s going to be one of the easiest matches I’ve ever had,” Muhammad said. “I think that I’m going to go in there and I’m going to walk through him. I’m going make it look easy. Everybody always has an excuse and they’re wondering why or there has to be this reason why I won this fight or why I won that fight, this or that. Once I have that belt, none of that ever matters.

“I said from the beginning, I’m the best welterweight in this division and I said from the beginning that I’m going to make it look easy when I beat Leon and dominate Leon. I haven’t had a close fight in the last five years.”

Even stepping into enemy territory by facing Edwards on his home soil in England only gets Muhammad that much more excited. He actually relishes the chance to face Edwards in front of a hostile crowd, because he expects to leave his opponent’s fans sad and crying into their English breakfast.

“Watch what I do to Leon,” Muhammad said. “Watch what I do in front of his people, in front of his hometown, in front of all of those fans out there that are going to be booing. I’m going to go enemy territory and I’m going to freaking smash him.

“I’m going to look at his coach, I’m going to look at his brother and I’m going to smile. I’m going to wait for them to say anything, I’m going to wait for their excuses and it’s going to be one of the best trips of my life.”

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