Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez was unsure what was in store for his fighting future, as rumors of an impending arrival to the UFC hit a fever pitch earlier this year.
UFC president Dana White seemed to be the main voice behind the probability of Melendez being signed by the UFC, so the odds looked bleak as far as “El Nino” ever defending his Strikeforce title again . However, in the ensuing weeks it was revealed that Melendez would be back inside a Strikeforce cage and not the UFC Octagon later this year, as he’s set to face Jorge Masvidal in the main event of a Strikeforce card on December 17 from San Diego, California. It will be his second fight this year with a first round TKO over Tatsuya Kawajiri a few months back.
With all that being said, is Melendez upset about remaining in Strikeforce and not being paired up with UFC 155-pound king Frankie Edgar or any other of the elite lightweights in the UFC? Not a chance.
“Nah, I’m not disappointed at all. The hype was there for a second. I was jazzed. I was hoping,” said Melendez, in a recent interview with MMAFighting. “I’m more popular than ever now…Dana White, the man, said go check Gilbert out and now people are checking me out. So I’m actually grateful on that. I’m an optimistic guy. I look at that like a glass half-full.”
Melendez has put together a 19-2 record, including 11 victories by knockout. He has not lost since 2008 when Josh Thomson defeated him via decision. Melendez has since avenged that loss, along with his only other career defeat to Mitsuhiro Ishida.
As for making the leap to the UFC – which seems inevitable – Melendez is just letting his managers take care of that, saying, “I’m ready for the big stage, I’m ready for all challenges.”
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE