Gilbert Burns: Belal Muhammad ‘not that entertaining but he’s very, very good,’ he can beat Leon Edwards

When the search was ongoing to find a main event for UFC 300, welterweight champion Leon Edwards was approached about several different opponents and he accepted every challenge thrown at him. In a bizarre twist, however, Belal Muhammad wasn’t on that list despite his standing as the unanimous No. 1 contender in the division.

In the end, the UFC didn’t book Edwards for the historic event on April 13 and the court of public opinion has overwhelmingly declared Muhammad as the rightful contender next in line.

Gilbert Burns, who fell to Muhammad via decision this past May, says there’s no question whatsoever that his former opponent deserves the next shot at the title and he actually gives him a great shot at beating Edwards. But he also understands why Muhammad probably wasn’t the first choice to face Edwards in a marquee main event.

“I think the fight is way closer than people think, Burns told MMA Fighting. “I watched a lot of Belal Muhammad’s fights, I watch a lot of Leon Edwards’ fights and Belal has a way better chance that people think. I don’t think it’s going to be an entertaining fight, that’s why it’s not going to be at UFC 300.”

He may not get too excited to watch him perform but Burns absolutely stands by Muhammad as the No. 1 contender in the division.

Perhaps the biggest problem plaguing Muhammad comes down to a lack of recognition with a wider, mainstream audience but Burns believes that at least part of those issues are self-inflicted wounds. He feels like Muhammad goes out of his way to make comments that rub people the wrong way and it rarely ends well for him.

“Belal deserves it even though we all know he’s not the most entertaining style,” Burns said. “Let me phrase that [different] because otherwise he’s going to make a clip out of me saying that. I don’t think he’s too smart with a couple of things he says. He tried to pick a fight. People in Brazil hate Belal Muhammad just the fact that he beat me. It’s all good, he beat me fair and square, he deserves the title shot but then he goes out there [and says] Charles Oliveira got a cut, he ran away from the fight [with Islam Makhachev]. A couple things that you’re attacking a lot of bad comments, a lot of bad energy.

“I just think that he’s not smart with the things he says and that doesn’t help him and he’s not as entertaining as the fight fans like. But it is what it is. The guy keeps winning fights, 10 fight win streak something like that, for sure he deserves the title shot.”

Assuming the matchup eventually comes together, Burns leans slightly towards Edwards as the favorite to win but he’s not confident that the reigning champion will hear “and still” when the night is over.

After spending 25 minutes in the cage with him, Burns knows the kind of relentless approach that Muhammad employs in his fights to get the job done. That style may not earn him many Fight of the Night awards but it will definitely get him wins and that’s all that matters.

“If Belal makes it a freaking dog fight, if he can be inside and try to use wrestling, he has a crazy gas tank — if he’s inside making it a dog fight, I think he can win,” Burns said. “I think that’s exactly what he’s going to try to do. I do think Leon is the favorite but I will say, it’s less than 55-45. It’s way closer.

“Because Belal Muhammad is good everywhere. He’s not great anywhere but he’s good everywhere and he knows how to win a fight. He’s a tough guy to fight. I don’t think Leon is underestimating him but if he does, Belal can get a win. It’s a lot closer than people think. Belal Muhammad is that good. He’s not that entertaining but he’s very, very good. I do believe it’s going to be closer than people think. Belal can get a win in that fight.”

With his own fight coming up against Jack Della Maddalena at UFC 299, Burns hopes to put himself back in the title conversation with a win.

Following Edwards successfully defending his title against Colby Covington this past December, his head coach Dave Lovell actually said that Burns “brings more to the table than Belal Muhammad” when contemplating what comes next for his fighter.

Burns appreciates the nod — even if he still believes Muhammad deserves the shot over him — but at least he knows he’s got Edwards’ attention.

“It’s good for me at least to see that Leon Edwards’ team is looking for me,” Burns said. “I believe a big win over Jack [Della] Maddalena, a finish will get me super close to another title shot.”