Coach prefers Gilbert Burns over Belal Muhammad for Leon Edwards next: ‘Burns brings more to the table’
Leon Edwards couldn’t have any clearer of a next title challenger awaiting him … at least one would think.
England’s “Rocky” has successfully defended his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight crown twice in succession after his strong performance at UFC 296 this past weekend (Dec. 16, 2023). Hit with a rather unexpected roadblock of a title challenger in Colby Covington, Edwards dispatched of the widely considered undeserving “Chaos” via a unanimous decision effort.
A rematch with the also streaking top Welterweight, Belal Muhammad, was the most logical move in terms of merit before Edwards vs. Covington was booked and it remains so in the aftermath. However, Edwards’ coach, Dave Lovell, still isn’t sold on the idea of the sequel and prefers the most recent opponent of “Remember the Name” instead.
“[UFC CEO] Dana [White] didn’t announce that it would be Belal so we’re just as bewildered as you,” Lovell said on The MMA Hour. “If it’s Belal, so be it. We’ve had a feel of him already. We know what he’s about. He has improved. If it’s Belal, it’s Belal. But you never know with these people. Shavkat, he had the foot injury so I don’t think he’d be ready for April, maybe not. Belal would be ready to go, but will Belal and Leon really be a big pay-per-view? You’ve got to look at it from the business point of view.
“Who else could we go for?” he continued. “Preference? Let’s put it real, Belal’s earned his place hasn’t he? Even though he still hasn’t done what Leon did, go through the tribulations Leon did, but he’s earned himself his contendership. To be honest, if I really had the choice but I don’t think it will happen, I would like Leon to fight [Gilbert] Burns. I think Burns wants to have a couple more before he’s a contender for Leon but if I had a choice who would be next, I would prefer Burns over Belal because I think Burns brings more to the table than Belal.”
Edwards and Muhammad’s fight separates each of their lengthy winning streaks as the only point of uncertainty. The pair first met in the main event of UFC Vegas 21 in March 2021 and fought to a no contest after an accidental Edwards eye poke rendered Muhammad unable to continue. Including their fight, Edwards is unbeaten in his last 13 bouts while Muhammad is unbeaten in his last 10.
When it comes to Burns, the 37-year-old Brazilian submission specialist came up short in his last time out against Muhammad via a five-round unanimous decision at UFC 288 in May 2023. White announced directly after UFC 296 this past weekend that Burns is set to return for UFC 299 when he faces Jack Della Maddalena on March 9.