Lightweight Gilbert Melendez is very familiar with the feeling of strapping gold around his waist after a longtime run as Strikeforce champion. However, Melendez will be absent a belt when he takes to the Octagon at UFC on FOX 7, making his organizational debut at the event in a bout against UFC title-holder Benson Henderson.
The feeling of being a contender instead of king has reinvigorated Melendez and has him hungrier than he’s been in a long time.
“I am coming to take that belt. I’m not defending my belt anymore and I’m coming to take his. I’m coming with bad intentions and I’m not counting on squeaking anything out on the scorecards,” said in an interview with the UFC’s website. “People are going to see a focused Gilbert Melendez, ready to put it all on the line to get that title. I’m ready to entertain and I’m coming to win. I’m coming to get that belt.”
Of course, he also understands beating “Bendo” is no easy feat. Henderson is 18-2 with sixteen wins in his last seventeen fights including five in a row.
“Benson is a total athlete. He has a lot of strengths and very few weaknesses, if any,” admitted Melendez. “One thing I do see in him as a big strength is that he is very mentally strong. That is one thing I see in him that I don’t see in every fighter. He is very focused and keeps his game face on at all times. He gets dropped in fights but he recovers quickly and keeps the same face on.”
“There is no look of desperation and he maintains his composure,” Melendez continued. “I think it is going to be a tough mental battle for both of us. We are going to push each other hard and it is going to be just as much of a mental battle as it is a physical one.”
UFC on FOX 7 is scheduled for April 20 in Strikeforce’s old stomping ground, San Jose. Like Henderson, Melendez is also on a solid streak with victories in seven straight scraps.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE/UFC