In the aftermath of his impressive co-main event victory over Stephen Thompson at UFC Vegas 45 this past weekend, Belal Muhammad revealed the racism he’d been subjected to by a member of the Apex crowd.
After his first opportunity to break into the welterweight elite ended in disaster thanks to an inadvertent eye poke at the hands of top-five contender Leon Edwards in March, Muhammad had his second chance to do so at the final UFC event of 2021. Opposite him in the Octagon was perennial contender and two-time title challenger, “Wonderboy.”
Following a similar blueprint to Gilbert Burns, who defeated Thompson earlier this year, Muhammad imposed his will, consistently taking the 38-year-old down and delivering damage on the ground and against the fence. After 15 minutes of control and dominance, “Remember The Name” took home a unanimous decision victory and will be ascended further up the division when the next rankings update arrives.
While he secured the win and established himself as a real contender at 170 pounds, the night wasn’t without some disappointment for Muhammad.
Muhammad: “It Was Some Drunk Hick”
Since introducing small crowds at the Apex, the facility that allowed the UFC to continue hosting events throughout the pandemic, the atmosphere has increased and provided a better feeling to Fight Nights. But on Saturday, not everyone let through the door behaved appropriately.
During his Octagon interview with Michael Bisping, Muhammad addressed someone in the audience who’d seemingly been sending abuse his way during his three-round fight with Thompson. During the post-fight press conference, the 33-year-old expanded on the racism he was subjected to from a “drunk hick” outside the Octagon.
“He was screaming out like, it was some drunk hick or something like that, screaming out racist Arabic words and stuff like that. I was just like, ‘Wonderboy, are these your boys?’ And he’s like, ‘Nah, nah, they ain’t my boys.’ I was like, ‘Alright, cool,’ and kept punching him again. It’s a small Apex, so you hear everything, and it was just weird. I was like, ‘Alright, I can see who you are.’ So I’m about to catch him on the Strip later today.”
There is certainly no room for racism in MMA, or any sport for that matter, not least when an athlete is putting their body on the line to entertain you. Given the size of the crowd and Muhammad’s knowledge of which individual used the terms, it shouldn’t be hard for the UFC to take action.
Should the abusive audience member be banned from the Apex for life?