Belal Muhammad striving to be uncommon amongst uncommon people at UFC 236
ATLANTA – Belal Muhammad is constantly looking to make himself a better fighter, and his latest inspiration was given to him by an ultramarathon runner.
Retired Navy SEAL and current endurance athlete David Goggins encourages others to “always look to be uncommon amongst uncommon people,” and it’s a message that resonated with Muhammad in his pursuit of MMA success.
“That quote stuck with me,” Muhammad told MMA Junkie. “All fighters are uncommon. There’s not a common guy out here. There’s not a freaking sane person out here that wants to be a fighter, so you’ve got to do what none of these other guys are doing. You’ve got to work that much harder than all these other guys.”
Muhammad was riding a four-fight winning streak heading into a January matchup with rising contender Geoff Neal. Unfortunately for Muhammad, “Handz of Steel” was up to the task and grinded his way to a clearcut decision win.
Muhammad said the result was eye-opening.
“I didn’t think none of these guys could outwork me,” Muhammad said. “He beat me at my own game. That only made me work harder, made me push myself harder, and it’s like, there’s other guys as hungry as you out there, so you’ve. just got be hungrier. You’ve got to be an uncommon man.”
Muhammad (14-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) gets his shot at redemption at Saturday’s UFC 236 event, where he takes on Curtis Millender (17-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The bout serves as the featured prelim on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+, preceding additional prelims on ESPN and a main card on pay-per-view.
Millender also saw an impressive winning streak recently snapped when Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos took him to the floor with relative ease before scoring a first-round submission. While it appears to be a blueprint for success against Millender, Muhammad insists he’s not so sure it’s that simple.
“I feel like I’m good everywhere, so I don’t have to rush in – run in for the takedown – because obviously he’s going to be expecting that,” Muhammad said. “I don’t want to do anything reckless. I’m one of those guys that I want to let the fight come to me – but without over-thinking it. It’s one of those where I don’t want to sit there and think, ‘Oh, this is going to be easy,’ then I go in there, shoot in, he sprawls on the first takedown. ‘Ah, crap. I thought this guy didn’t know how to wrestle.’ Nah, I don’t think that.
“Every fighter that I face, I’m thinking that that’s the GOAT. I’m thinking he’s the best in all positions, so I have to train as best as I can in all positions.”
Muhammad said his constant self-evaluation revealed another import issue, as well – the importance of remaining true to his fighting character. Muhammad believes he strayed from his traditional approach against Neal, and it cost him.
“I’m a grinder,” Muhammad said. “I’m a guy that’s going to break you. I’m going to break your spirit. I’m going to break your heart, and after that, that’s when I’m going to take your soul.”
Muhammad, an admitted “terrible loser,” believes he’ll be able to start another winning streak at UFC 236. It’s his time to prove he’s uncommon.
“There’s a lot you can do after a loss,” Muhammad said. “You can sit there and dwell on it and say, ‘Oh, it was a bad day. He got lucky. He got this, he got that.’ Or you can sit there, rewatch it, find the mistakes you made and fix those mistakes. I mean, at the end, the goal is to be the best ever, be the best in the world. To be the best in the world, you have to have your ups and downs, and you have to see what works and what doesn’t work. I feel like I learned a lot off that loss.
“I just want to get that taste out of my mouth, get back in the win column and just keep the ball rolling after that.”
To hear more from Muhammad, check out the video above.