Having taken the Octagon to London, Columbus, and Jacksonville across the past three weeks, MMA’s premier promotion is set to return to Nevada’s Apex facility tonight for UFC Vegas 51.
In the main event, fans will be treated to a rematch between two elite 170lbers vying for a place in the title conversation. Headliners Luque and Muhammad first collided at UFC 205 in 2016. On that occasion, the Brazilian made quick work of the Chicago native, ending the fight via first-round knockout.
With both men building impressive form and rising the ranks in the years since, it’s time to run it back.
While their collision six years ago provided a taste of each other’s skillsets, as it turns out, the pair had a recent refresher.
Luque Reveals “Technical” Training With Muhammad
Looking ahead to his first main event on MMA’s biggest stage during an interview with The AllStar’s John Hyon Ko, Luque revealed the training session he took part in with Muhammad in 2021.
While in Las Vegas for September’s UFC 266 pay-per-view, the #5 and #6-ranked contenders, who are both managed by Dominance MMA CEO Ali Abdelaziz, did some technical grappling and sparring at the UFC Performance Institute.
“(Muhammad) has trained at Sanford, but I wasn’t there when that happened. But I trained with him last year in Vegas. We were there for—I don’t remember which UFC it was. It was the one where Nick Diaz fought Robbie Lawler,” Luque recalled.
“So we were there, and we’re both managed by Ali, so we were all together, we went to dinner and everything, then next morning, they told me, ‘There’s gonna be training, we’re gonna train at the PI, if you wanna go there?’ So I went there, we worked out a little bit,” added Luque. “But nothing crazy. It was some grappling and then some MMA sparring, but (with) really small gloves and mostly technical.”
It’s safe to say that not much spurs pre-fight discussion quite like history between two competitors in the gym. While that is often the case, as shown by Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane’s limited time sparring in Paris prior to their UFC 270 clash, the personalities of Luque and Muhammad certainly don’t lend themselves to that narrative.
Reflecting on his training with “Remember The Name,” Luque said he has no issue sparring or sharing the gym with his fellow welterweights, even when he expects to fight them down the line. “The Silent Assassin” also pointed out that training with future rivals isn’t focused on as much as it is in MMA in any other sport.
“I had a great time, he’s a really nice guy, just like me. We don’t mind training with each other. We know that eventually we could fight again, and that’s just how it is,” said Luque. “I don’t mind training with guys and eventually fighting them. I think it’s natural. In other sports, it’s supernatural. People play tennis and they’ll train with each other and then play against each other. For me, it’s not a big deal.”
While both Luque and Muhammad have played down the impact their first fight could have on their rematch, that, along with their 2021 training session, means they’ve certainly had a unique look at each other’s arsenals ahead of their main event collision.
Who do you think will have their hand raised in tonight’s main event, Vicente Luque or Belal Muhammad?