For Belal Muhammad, fighting during Ramadan means skipping food and water at a time he desperately needs it.
But the greater burden for the Muslim welterweight is watching his brother eat sweets on fight week.
“I just had to sit there and watch him eat brownies,” Muhammad said of a field trip before his fight against newcomer Chance Rencountre at UFC Fight Night 131.
Muhammad (14-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) notched his third octagon appearance, racking up his fourth straight win against Rencountre (12-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) at a time when he is supposed to be focused on his religion. The decision to forgo tradition isn’t easy, but Muhammad believes it sharpens his mental strength.
“Everybody’s out here always looking for an edge, and I feel like me not drinking or eating during training in the morning and having to push it, just takes me to a whole other level than these guys,” Muhammad told reporters after a decision win on the FS1-televised prelims Friday at Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y. “Everybody’s out here looking for the next best supplement, what’s the right steroid to take. Me, I’m getting my strength from my spirituality. From God.”
It’s that strength that kept Muhammad from getting flustered when his originally scheduled opponent, Niko Price, was forced to withdraw. Muhammad said Price messaged him and said the New York State Athletic Commission wouldn’t clear him to compete, and Rencountre was installed as a replacement.
“He just got signed, and I was on a three-fight winning streak,” Muhammad said. “So I basically had nothing to gain from this fight. But I’m one of those guys, I’m down to fight anybody in the world at any time. You can’t be a fighter in this game and say no when somebody offers you a fight.
“I’m down to fight anybody, but none of these guys are willing to fight. They’re sitting here hiding behind their number.”
With his list of UFC wins growing, Muhammad wants a marquee opponent to take his career to the next level. But he’ll just as well run back the fight he was supposed to take before the shakeup on the card.
“Give me the Niko Price fight again,” Muhammad said. “That was the guy I was supposed to fight, and I know he’s down to fight. So I’m down to get a quick turnaround and fight him.”