Dubai: Palestinian fighter Belal Muhammad understands that pride is a powerful emotion that he brings to the Octagon every time he fights.
And when the Chicago-born mixed martial artist takes on Brazilian veteran Demian Mia at Saturday’s UFC 263 card at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, Muhammad will be fighting for much more than victory as he plots his rise to the very summit of the talent-rich welterweight division, which is headed by the unconquerable Kamaru Usman.
“I’m fighting for Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians,” Muhammad told Gulf News via zoom from Las Vegas.
“I represent a whole group of people. I want to be one of those role models for kids to look up to and say I want to be like him one day.
“So, there’s going to be a lot going on on Saturday when I face Mia.
“I’m super exited about this fight. He’s a legend and is one of those guys that I have always wanted to test myself against,” he added.
“It’s going to be an amazing fight and I see my hand being raised at the end.”
Muhammad (18-3) is coming into the fight on the back of a ‘no contest’ against Britain’s Leon Edwards where he suffered a terrible eye injury that called a stop to the fight.
“I’m one of those guys who just looks forward,” he said. “This fight is not a step up, I belong here with the Top 10 guys. I’ve always wanted to fight the best guys in the world and prove what I’m capable of.
“I think I can be a world champion, that’s my goal. I always thought that I would be the best fighter in the world. I want to get better with every fight and as long as I keep evolving, I’m going to be that guy.”
Mia is a hard as nails grappler but that does not worry Muhammad who is 9-1 in his last ten appearances in the Octagon.
“It’s one of these fights you never want to lose,” he says. “In the UFC you can’t’ afford to lose. For every loss, you take tree steps back and I’ve dealt with that. I’m not shy of that.
“I just want to keep this run going and staying on the right trajectory for a title shot.”
Muhammad understands that Mia (42) is a serious opponent who possess functional grappling skills and also boasts a very high boxing proficiency.
“In most of my fights I showcased my boxing skills, but I have a whole set of tools that I want to show the world that I’m good at,” he said.
“If I can do that against Mia who is one of the best grapplers in the division, it means that I can compete against the top guy. And I’m confident that I can.”
Muhammad says that he knows what the submission specialist Mia is going to do come Saturday.
“I’ve done my homework, I studied how he fights,” he said.
“Mia’s like a boa constrictor. He takes you to the ground and forces you to make mistakes, he wants you to give up. But I don’t see the fight going that way.
“I’m going to bring a lot of volume, I’m going to be in his face. I want to be a boa constrictor myself and be the one forcing the mistakes. I want to be the one to break him.”
UFC 163 is headlined by a rematch betwee UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori while in another Flyweight title rematch Deiveson Figueiredo squares up against No. 1-seeded challenger, Brandon Moreno.