The Integrity of the UFC Championship is Diminishing

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This past weekend at the UFC 298 post-fight press conference, UFC boss, Dana White revealed that welterweight champion, Leon Edwards had received three fight offers to headline UFC 300 and accepted every single one of them. Unfortunately for the Brit and fans of his, none of these fights came to fruition, however, White didn’t reveal at the time who the opponents were.

Ariel Helwani confirmed that the three names offered to Edwards were Khamzat Chimaev, Shavkat Rakhmonov and lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev.

First things first, it’s time we all heaped even more respect on Leon Edwards’ name. Three of arguably the hardest match-ups anywhere from 155lbs – 185lbs and Rocky accepted all comers.

With that being said, only one of the three contenders offered to Edwards is arguably deserving of a shot at his strap, however, the most worthy opponent wasn’t offered the bout. Belal Muhammad deserves the shot. He’s enjoying a 10 fight unbeaten run and is long overdue a shot at gold. Why he wasn’t offered the fight hasn’t been revealed yet, however, it completely ignores the integrity of the title.

We look at the three fighters offered the fight as well as Muhammad, as well as the upcoming UFC 299 main event and how it’s harming the UFC championship status.

Leon Edwards’ Offers

Of the three contenders offered to Edwards, it’s only Rakhmonov that makes any sort of sense. He’s undefeated in professional MMA at 18-0 with an unprecedented 18 finishes. His last fight saw him submit Stephen Thompson at UFC 296 on Edwards’ undercard. He’s stepped up every time he’s been offered an opponent and has put in more impressive performances as the level of competition has increased. He’s ranked #3 at 170lbs and will, without a doubt continue to put on entertaining fights until he tastes gold.

Khamzat Chimaev is a strange one. He’s not competed at welterweight since April 2022 at UFC 273 as he missed weight badly after this fight and competed at middleweight last time out against Kamaru Usman (who took the fight on short notice). Since stepping up to the elite level against names such as Gilbert Burns and Usman, he hasn’t been able to finish fights (yet). He’s ranked #11 at middleweight and isn’t currently ranked at all at welterweight, arguably due to his inactivity at the weight. He definitely needs at least one more high-level win at 170lbs if he’s to compete for the belt any time soon. A logical fight would be to face Kamaru Usman at 170lbs across five rounds in a rematch of their razor-close bout at middleweight. If he were to win and remain undefeated, it would prove that he’s championship calibre.

Islam Makhachev is arguably the strangest pick of the bunch. He’s a megastar without a question which must have been a huge factor as to why he was offered the UFC 300 spot. With that being said, the lightweight champion has to defend the belt in his own division at least once or ideally two more times before moving up in weight to compete for another belt. He’s defeated just two lightweight contenders and granted, he’s faced the featherweight champion (at the time) twice, however, he’s hardly cleared out the division. The Charles Oliveira rematch, the Arman Tsarukyan rematch, a Justin Gaethje, a Dustin Poirier or a Benoit Saint Denis fight needs to happen next. As we know, the likelihood is that it’ll be either Oliveria or Tsarukyan, depending on who wins at UFC 300, however, there are plenty of contenders at 155lbs who should compete for the belt before Makhachev moves to 170lbs. Makhachev himself has seemed to suggest that he wants to compete with some of the contenders at lightweight before moving up.

Despite not being as big a name as the three men who were offered fights on UFC 300, Belal Muhammad is the most deserving contender at welterweight. A ten-fight unbeaten run, including multiple dominant performances against a whole host of top contenders, we have to ask what more Muhammad has to do to get the call. On top of this, there’s a storyline between him and Edwards. The two faced off in a main event back in 2021, however, the fight was stopped prematurely after an unintentional eye-poke at the hands of Edwards. The two have since gone at each other on social media, so the fight sells itself. On top of this, the Chicago-born Muhammad weighed in as the alternative to Edwards’ previous bout and was told he’d get the next shot.

Unfortunately, Dana White and the UFC match-makers have caused the integrity of the championship to diminish somewhat, especially if Muhammad isn’t next for Edwards. It would highlight that the sport is no longer about the best fighting the best, it would suggest that it’s the best fighting the biggest ticket-selling challenger.

UFC 299 Further Diminishes the Integrity of the Belt

The upcoming UFC 299 main event was only made because Chito Vera previously finished the champion, Sean O’Malley, which remains Suga’s only professional loss. Vera is enjoying just a single winning run, whereas Merab Dvalishvili was riding a nine-fight winning run when the fight was made (now a 10-fight winning run with his win this past weekend).

Cory Sandhagen, albeit injured is more of a deserving title contender than Vera. He’s enjoying a three-fight undefeated run, including a win over the Ecuadorian, Vera, however, not selecting him for the fight due to injury does make sense. He certainly has to be in the questioning for a shot soon.

Realistically, Georgian, Dvalishvili should have been given the opportunity before Vera. He has the more impressive winning run and has earned his shot at the belt. Granted, the Vera vs O’Malley fight likely sells better. They have a history, both are good talkers and rematches always tend to sell well. With that being said, the integrity of the belt and who truly is the best has to come into question.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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