Why Gilbert Burns vs. Belal Muhammad compromises a top contender in order to get a quick fix at UFC 288

This weekend, the UFC needed a major co-main event, but the patchwork match makes little sense given the short notice.

Two of the world’s top welterweights compete in a title eliminator as the co-main event of UFC 288. What is there to dislike? The conditions leading up to the fight between Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad in Newark on Saturday weren’t great, and the result was much worse for the two combatants who had worked so hard to get there.

Following the removal of Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush from the pay-per-view card, Muhammad and Burns stepped in to save a comparatively weak pay-per-view offering. When Muhammad received the call, he was keeping a Ramadan fast. Less than a month prior, Burns was still recuperating from his decision victory over Jorge Masvidal in the co-main event of UFC 287. Why then would two fighters who are vying for the championship take such a chance? because UFC president Dana White has stated time and time again that Colby Covington will face UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards in the near future.

Covington has gone fourteen months without a fight. His most recent victories came over Tyron Woodley, Jorge Masvidal, and Robbie Lawler, who had each lost one fight in the previous five years and had both retired after losing 0-4 streaks. Muhammad, on the other hand, has won all nine of his battles since April 2019. Burns just defeated Masvidal as well, but the strength of his recent performances, together with victories over Neil Magny and Stephen Thompson, should outweigh Covington’s argument.

Burns said, “It’s the narrative of my life and possibly Belal’s life as well. “I’m kind of accustomed to not receiving things the simple way. I just am what I am. It is what it is, even if I have to put in a little more effort. I no longer get frustrated, and I no longer whine. I’m employed. When they told me I couldn’t do it, they should have responded, “Why not, why him? What must I do, I questioned. That is how I go about it.

For warriors who have little influence over decision-makers, it is essential to reframe missed opportunities as blessings and turn obstacles into fuel. Although technically independent contractors, the fighters have very little negotiating power because of the UFC’s massive market share and the restrictive nature of their contracts.

“Why don’t I understand this? Why can’t I get my shot? Why are they torturing me like this? Do they despise me?That’s life, bro, ” Muhammad remarked. “No one will give you anything. As soon as I arrived to the UFC, I was aware of that. I would have to fight my way to anything I desired in order to get it. I am aware that despite this struggle, I am still trying to obtain it. It will just make all this extra stuff, all these extra hurdles I had to jump over, that much sweeter and that much better to have that gold wrapped around my waist after winning this to get to the title that I know I’m going to get.

This unusual five-round, non-title co-main event fight will take place. With assistance from Khabib Nurmagomedov, a member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Muhammad campaigned for the clause. However, even that requirement is a concession because it calls for participants to look for a different drive when logic is questioned. The opponent in Burns agreed without hesitation to a five-round fight, but the businessman’s calculations did not work out.

To do three or five rounds costs about the same, according to Burns. Masvidal stated, “If they pay me BMF money, I’ll do it gladly,” because of this. Now I realize that performing five rounds isn’t always worthwhile. However, in this instance, it’s for the front-runner.

Muhammad is possibly the most deserving candidate from a meritocratic standpoint. His nine-fight winning streak outranks everyone currently ranked in the top five by the UFC, with the possible exception of Khamzat Chimaev, who seems headed for the middleweight division. Still, Muhammad needs to do even more to guarantee his chance at the title.

Every so often, you ask yourself, “Is it really worth it? What do I receive? What do I get out of it? I don’t want a brawl. I’ve won eight straight fights,” Muhammad boasted. “I don’t have to accept a fight with a two-week notice period against a No. 5 in the world who just finished a camp. He stands to benefit greatly from it. I am ranked above him. Gilbert Burns is the man, some may claim. However, I’m like, “Bro, he just easily defeated Neil Magny in one round.” He then defeated Masvidal rather quickly. To have two fights under one camp is every fighter’s goal.

“For me, it’s not about the money. The gold is the topic. Will this be the next one to grant me access to the gold? Is this the one that will win me the title match? They only had to tell me that. I’m 100% committed if my next battle is for the championship.

Covington’s championship chance appears to be only being pursued by the UFC. Even the current champion Edwards rejected his assertion as unfounded. There is no certainty, but Muhammad is still hopeful that a strong performance on Saturday can help him defeat Covington. Two serious welterweight championship contenders kick off UFC 288. One contender gets eliminated in the end, and the other barely advances in the division.