After a spate of late injury withdrawals over the past several weeks, the UFC aren’t taking any chances ahead of their final pay-per-view event of the year this weekend.
Late on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Leon Edwards is set to defend his welterweight crown against Colby Covington in the UFC 296 main event — but should either fighter not make it to fight night as we have seen in the last two PPV’s, the UFC have a plan B in place.
According to an initial report by MMA Junkie, top welterweight contender Belal Muhammad will be on hand in Sin City this weekend should either main event fighter fall out for any reason. Muhammad, currently in the midst of a 10-fight unbeaten streak (and unbeaten in 14 of 15 dating back to 2016), will make weight and offer his services should they be required on fight night.
Muhammad was last seen in the cage in May where he scored a unanimous decision victory over former welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns. He was previously matched up against Edwards in March 2021 but the bout was halted early in the second round after Muhammad was unable to continue after receiving an accidental eye poke.
While it obviously remains to be seen if he will be needed on Saturday night, Muhammad’s position as backup fighter bodes well for his prospective title chances in 2024, given that the UFC often look to reward backup fighters with high profile bouts.
In addition to Muhammad, former flyweight king Brandon Moreno will also serve as a backup on Saturday night where he will stand in should anyone in the 125-pound title fight between champ Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval be forced to withdraw.
UFC 295 underwent some last minute changes when Jon Jones pulled out of a heavyweight title defence against Stipe Miocic, prompting an interim title fight between Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich. Similarly, the UFC 294 pay-per-view event in Abu Dhabi saw featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski fill in on short notice for Charles Oliveira against lightweight titleholder Islam Makhachev.