Belal Muhammad has been there before.
As he sat cageside for UFC 278 this past Saturday night, the welterweight contender witnessed Leon Edwards pull off an incredible comeback with a vicious head kick in the fifth round to knock out Kamaru Usman to become champion. It was an incredible achievement for Edwards, but simultaneously a heartbreaking moment for Usman, and Muhammad could relate having been on both ends of the spectrum during his own career.
Almost immediately after the fight, former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor and YouTube celebrity turned boxing enthusiast Jake Paul were posting photos and memes mocking Usman after he suffered the brutal loss.
None of that sat well with Muhammad, especially seeing somebody like McGregor revel in Usman’s downfall after he experienced his own tragic misstep after he broke his leg in a fight with Dustin Poirier back in July 2021.
“When you’re seeing guys like that, even Conor McGregor, you know how it feels to lose in a championship fight,” Muhammad said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “You know how it feels to lose in front of your family. Just seeing Usman’s daughter there and how she broke down. It’s heartbreaking and you know what it takes to get in there if you’re a Conor McGregor. But if you’re Jake Paul, you don’t know what it is to get be in there, you don’t know what it takes to get in there.
“These guys that kick the guy when they’re down, it just shows what kind of person they are. They’re just looking for that attention. Conor McGregor’s looking for that attention. Jake Paul’s looking for that attention. Jake Paul is just trying to change the narrative. He’s a guy that’s like, ‘Oh I can sell a million pay-per-views, oh this guy didn’t want to fight me at 185,’ so his whole show got cancelled because he’s not as big a draw as he thinks he is.
“It didn’t sell out. I think it was ticket sales [why it was cancelled]. He can come up with any excuse he wants, but it shows this guy is a straight up loser and the fact that he’s kicking a guy when he’s down like that, it tells you more about them but that’s the world we live in now.”
The way Muhammad sees it, negativity sells. But that’s only amplified on social media, where everybody has a voice and there are rarely repercussions for anything said.
Rather than celebrating Edwards’ win, McGregor and Paul spent far more time punching down on Usman after he suffered a crushing defeat.
“We live in a troll world, we live in a Twitter world where these people think they can say whatever they want because they’re not in front of you and they know nothing will happen to them,” Muhammad said. “It just gives other trolls, losers, kids nowadays will create fake accounts where they will say the stupidest things to somebody and there’s a million memes out there but it’s like karma always comes back to you.
“It’s going to come back to all these people, especially a guy like Conor McGregor, who literally you haven’t won a fight in five years. All you do is tweet when a big fight card is coming up because you can have all the money in the world but you don’t have the attention and that’s what you crave the most. You don’t have anybody screaming your name anymore and that’s what you want the most. It’s kind of pathetic where these guys are now.”
While Muhammad obviously takes exception to what Paul had to say as well, he definitely holds McGregor to a different standard as a fellow fighter who has accomplished a lot during his career yet he’s currently recovering from his own devastating setback.
“Kamaru Usman would murder you if you guys fought and you know that so you’re just going to stay on the sidelines and be a troll,” Muhammad said about McGregor.
“These trolls are known as these freaking losers that are sitting on their couch in their mom’s basement and they get a reaction out of you and that’s their goal for the day. To get some kind of reaction or a laugh and they think they’ve won a gold medal. That’s what Conor McGregor is now. That’s what Jake Paul is now. It’s pathetic.”
Because he’s also very active on social media, Muhammad has no problem getting into exchanges with fellow fighters or fans, but he also knows where to draw the line. A perfect example came at UFC 277 when a somebody he doesn’t really like suffered a similar fate as Usman.
“I’m always a guy I’m never sharing in somebody getting knocked out,” Muhammad said. “I’ve had my altercations with Sean Strickland, and then seeing him get knocked out, I’ll get tagged in stuff and videos of him getting knocked out, and I’m never going to share in that. I know what it takes to get in there.
“He may be the biggest loser in the world, but still you know he works hard, and you know you can act this tough way and act like you don’t care about wins and losses or anything, but when you lose a fight, when you lose in front of your family, when you lose on TV in that way, it’s heartbreaking. It’s the highest highs and the lowest lows. This world nowadays with [mental health] and there’s so many people out here depressed and things like that, you never know what someone is going through. They’ll have a smile on their face, but behind the scenes, in their own head, there’s probably some crazy stuff going on, especially when you lose a fight.”
As far as his feelings towards McGregor go, Muhammad would love the chance to silence the always outspoken Irish superstar in an actual fight but he doesn’t expect that option will ever be made available to him.
“I would dominate him so easily,” Muhammad said. “I would literally pull the ‘put my hands behind my back’ thing because that’s a fight I would definitely want and there’s no possible way he would ever get in the cage with me.”