Demian Maia will be making his return to UFC competition against an often-underrated but dangerous opponent in Belal Muhammad, on June 12th at UFC 263. The news was originally reported by ESPN and although the physical contracts for the bout have yet to be signed, both parties have verbally agreed to the match and it all looks set for that event. It’s been a little over a year since Maia last set foot in the octagon and fans were beginning to wonder if that meant his retirement was impending given that the ADCC World Champion is already 43 years-old.
Maia stumbled a little after his most recent title shot against Tyron Woodley in 2017 and went on to lose another two fights after consecutively after that one. He used his elite Jiu-Jitsu skills to great effect in order to right the ship and ended up finishing two out of his next three victories by rear-naked choke, including the fight that put Ben Askren into retirement. That led to him standing across from another elite grappler in Gilbert Burns in a fight where he was put on the receiving end of a brutal knockout loss by his heavy-handed opponent.
Since then, Demian Maia has been linked with Khamzat Chimaev briefly but otherwise has remained relatively silent until the announcement of this upcoming fight with Belal Muhammad. He will be coming into this fight riding an entirely different wave of momentum as he won his last four fights in a row, and eight of his previous nine against a whole host of top Welterweight competitors. This was what propelled Muhammad into a match against Leon Edwards that would unfortunately end in a no contest after an eye-poke early in the second round.
When Edwards was announced to be facing off against Nate Diaz in an upcoming match, it became clear that Muhammad would not get a chance to run that fight back. Seeing as he still deserves an equally impressive name, it’s good to see that UFC brass have decided to reward him and have him be the welcoming party for Maia’s return to the cage.