In a week Gilbert Melendez will put his Strikeforce title on the line against Josh Thomson, the latest in a line of talented foes “El Nino” has faced lacking elite status. While a win over Thomson is an accomplishment to be proud of, it’s also one doing little to cement Melendez’s place at the top of the 155-pound division.
Melendez is all too familiar with the unfortunate truth that the world’s best lightweights do their work inside the Octagon, even going so far as to ask Zuffa to bring one or two over for him to tackle given that the company owns both Strikeforce and the UFC. The 30-year old Californian recently addressed his current reality where his attitude seemed to be one of mild acceptance mixed with understandable disappointment.
“I think the common fan still hears my name and says, ‘Who the hell is that? I think the reason is because they haven’t seen me fight or that I’m not in the UFC,” explained Melendez in an interview with Heavy.com. “I get respect from my fellow fighters, but the common fan doesn’t know who I am because they don’t follow Strikeforce the way they follow the UFC.”
“I wish some of these guys in the UFC would take the risk,” Melendez continued on his frustration with seemingly being bogged down in the prime of his career. “At the end of the day I understand the business moves. I’m sure their managers tell them fighting me in Strikeforce isn’t the best business move, and I understand.”
Though the future of Strikeforce remains uncertain, and he may not necessarily be happy about his circumstances, Melendez still seems intent on finishing out his deal with the organization before moving on (or moving over to the UFC’s roster as the case may be).
“I’m going to be with Strikeforce for a while, or at least until my contract is up. I have this fight plus three more, and I respect that,” said Melendez, showing he’s a man of honor above all else.
If Melendez gets by Thomson there appear to be slim pickings in terms of future contenders to the crown. First in line is likely Pat Healy who is on a four-fight winning streak or possibly Eddie Alvarez if Zuffa decides to sign him away from Bellator when he becomes a free agent in a few months.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE