UFC 236 winner Belal Muhammad sick of 'rankings as an excuse not to fight'

ATLANTA – Belal Muhammad has a growing frustration with the politics of the fight game and voiced his feelings after his victory at UFC 236.

Muhammad (15-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC), who defeated Curtis Millender (17-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) by unanimous decision on Saturday’s card, is disappointed by the way the UFC’s official rankings have influenced matchmaking. He said fighters are doing more than ever to keep their spot by not stepping in the octagon.

“It’s more frustrating just because guys use rankings as an excuse not to fight,” Muhammad told reporters, including MMA Junkie, post-fight at UFC 236. “In the old days if you’re on a streak you fight a guy on a streak. Rankings don’t matter in the old days. … Everyone is trying to think about it too much from a business standpoint. If you’re a real fighter you’ll fight anybody anyway. If you call me I’m going to answer the phone and I’ll get my mouthpiece and I’m ready to go.”

Prior to losing his bout with Geoff Neal at UFC on ESPN+ 1 in January, Muhammad was on a four-fight UFC winning streak at welterweight. He felt deserving of a matchup with a big name, but ultimately took on an unranked foe instead because of a lack of alternatives.

“None of these ranked guys want to take fights,” Muhammad said. “All these guys are using their ranking as a way to turn down fights, but I’ll fight anybody. People are telling me, ‘Why did you take the Geoff Neal fight?’ Because I want to fight these exciting guys, I want to fight these up-and-comers and I want to show I’m the best in the world. I want to fight the best guys in the world.”

UFC 236 took place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Muhammad vs. Millender was part of the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass prior to televised prelims on ESPN and the pay-per-view main card.

Muhammad said the fight with Millender went as expected. He felt his opponent had seriously flaws in his ground game, and he was able to incorporate takedowns and get the decision win.

With five victories in his past six UFC appearances, Muhammad said he’s looking to return to the octagon at UFC 239 in July, and he said he has three potential opponent in mind.

“I’m hoping to fight in July during International Fight Week,” Muhammad said. “I hope for an exciting fight. Niko Price, we were supposed to fight before. Something happened with him, he has to pull out so I feel like that would be a good fight for the fans. Li Jingliang is another good guy I would like to fight. If he turns it down give me Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. I’m just ready to fight anybody. I have it all written down. I have a hit list.”

For complete coverage of UFC 236, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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