HeavyMMA.com catches up with Strikeforce lightweight champ at UFC on Fox
Gilbert Melendez is knocking at the door to superstardom.
The Strikeforce lightweight champion has compiled a record of 19-2 over his professional career and is currently riding a dominant five-fight winning streak, including victories over the likes of Shinya Aoki, Josh Thomson and, most recently, Tatsuya Kawajiri. And his reign over the 155-pound division of the promotion has him wanting more.
A charismatic person and electrifying athlete, Melendez is currently preparing to face Jorge Masvidal this December in San Diego, once again putting his lightweight title on the line, but the California native, while not looking past the top contender, has his eye on the sport’s top belt; the UFC lightweight title currently held by Frankie Edgar.
Edgar, who has displayed levels of toughness, cardio, and technique to help him hang onto the belt, last fought at UFC 136 in a rematch with Gray Maynard. Like their first contest, Edgar survived an early storm from the top contender, impressing all who watched, including Melendez.
But Melendez also sees how someone could put together a gameplan to end Edgar’s term as the champion.
“I thought it was an amazing fight,” Melendez told HeavyMMA.com’s Megan Olivi. “Frankie's tough. He's shown it again and again. But Gray kind of laid out a blueprint for how to beat Frankie for one round, so now if someone could figure out how to keep it up for two, three, four, five, I think they'll possibly be successful.
“He's an amazing fighter and I think he'll have the belt for a while, but there is no one that you feel can't be dethroned or that is unbeatable or anyone you fear, at least in my opinion. I think he's a great fighter, but, again, I don't (label) him untouchable.”
Melendez has thought extensively about a match up with Edgar, which is a fight that seems all but inevitable at this point in time. And if that fight should take place in the near future, Melendez says that he would make Edgar fight him, stating that “there would be no running.”
But as often as Melendez may ponder on the potential match up, he still understands his greatest responsibility in the sport is defeating Masvidal on December 17, and he has prepared extensively to defend his belt against the man he expected to face even before Masvidal earned the title shot.
“Training camp is great,” Melendez said. “I've been training for Jorge for a long time. I anticipated him to beat K.J. (Noons), so even before he fought K.J. I was thinking he was going to be the guy I'd be fighting next. Sure enough he beat K.J., and I've been training for him since.”
“He's a tall guy. I think he's very underrated. He's fought guys like Paul Daley, who people thought he beat. He's a very talented guy and I've always known I was going to fight him.”
While Melendez is preparing for his next title defense, one which, like the rest, he is very much looking forward to, he is not the only member of his camp getting ready for a five round championship bout in the near future.
After his dominant decision victory over B.J. Penn at UFC 137, Nick Diaz is once again scheduled to meet welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. The championship bout will take place at UFC 143 in February, giving Cesar Gracie’s team a handful of high profile fights, not to mention members Jake Shields and Nate Diaz’s upcoming contests.
But a busy schedule is nothing new to Melendez, Shields, or the Diaz brothers. The past 10 years have consisted of basically non-stop training and fighting, as they each help one another in preparation for competition. Melendez knows being a member of such a talented team is priceless, and he knows he can credit his past success and the success to come to the people surrounding him.
“I'm a great fighter on my own,” Melendez said. “But having a team like Nate, Jake, and Nick and being associated with them just heightens my popularity. I'm inspired by (them). It's good for me. It's awesome to be a part of it. Even when we lose or anything, we're a badass team.”