UFC welterweight Belal Muhammad is thankful he avoided serious injury from an inadvertent eye poke during a fight against Leon Edwards last weekend, and he is now telling ESPN he wants an immediate rematch as well as harsher penalties for eye pokes.
On Saturday, the UFC Fight Night main event between Muhammad (18-3) and Edwards (18-3) was ruled a no-contest after Muhammad could not continue after suffering the injury to his right eye in the second round. Edwards has since said he wishes to move on from the matchup, which doesn't sit well with Muhammad.
"Opportunity knocked, and I answered the call," said Muhammad, who accepted the fight on short notice. "You took that opportunity away for doing something illegal. It's not like the power went out and we couldn't fight because of that. You poked me in the eye. You can train yourself not to do that."
Muhammad said he warned referee Herb Dean in the locker room ahead of the fight that he was concerned about potential eye pokes. Edwards had a significant height and reach advantage in the matchup, and Muhammad's game plan relied on aggressively coming forward. In addition to the eye poke in the second round, Edwards accidentally poked Muhammad's eye in the first round as well.
"We trained for this," Muhammad said. "We know he likes to keep distance and put his palm out. We literally told Herb Dean before the fight, 'We're going to be trying to get in on him and he puts his hands out, please watch his fingers.'
"Refs need to take a point right away, no warning. That will stop guys from doing that. You saw it with Petr Yan's illegal knee [at UFC 259], he got disqualified. You get penalized like that, that's going to stop guys from even thinking about that. That finger, you take a point right away, that's going to get everybody afraid."
The UFC has not indicated whether they intend to book a rematch or move from the matchup. Edwards is the No. 3-ranked welterweight contender in the UFC's official rankings, while Muhammad is No. 13.
"Dana White put it out there, 'If you beat Belal Muhammad, you get a title shot,'" Muhammad said. "The title shot is already booked right now, with Jorge Masvidal and Kamaru Usman [on April 24]. Why wouldn't you want to take this fight? If you think you're so much ahead of me, and you won the first round, and all the other rounds are going to go the same way, OK. Come and get this easy paycheck. Fight me, beat me and you'll get a title shot anyway."