UFC lightweight Gilbert Melendez made his Octagon debut last weekend at UFC on FOX 7 in a title-fight with Benson Henderson and gave the champ a real run for the belt. Though Henderson came out with his hand raised by way of Split Decision, Melendez’s effort made it clear he was worthy of his spot on the sport’s biggest stage.
The moment wasn’t lost on Melendez either and has been one of the few saving graces from an otherwise immensely disappointing result.
“Honestly, I felt like the biggest winner that night. I really did. I really feel like I made a statement. It was devastating to lose, but I feel like I arrived in the UFC. I got respect. A lot of people thought I was garbage (previously), so there’s a lot of positive things,” said Melendez in a recent interview with MMAJunkie. “I’m actually pretty high on life right now.”
Melendez also addressed the controversy surrounding the fact the official who scored the scrap in his favor was affiliated with a Cesar Gracie gym, albeit not the one “El Nino” spends time training at. While Melendez agreed the situation should never have occurred as a means of avoiding potential controversy, he was at least pleased to hear one of the individuals helping determine fighters’ futures had some familiarity with MMA outside of the judges’ table.
“The positive thing is that if the guy is training, that’s a good thing. Yeah, you’ve got be selective about it, but some judges just don’t know what’s going on. I wish they’d get on the mat and train and really feel what it’s like and do some boxing or some Muay Thai and visit some gyms,” said Melendez. “Of course you don’t want a conflict of interest. I wouldn’t want to win and everyone tell me I’m a cheater or something like that. I don’t want to win on an F-upped type of thing.”
The 21-3 Melendez could definitely be on to something, as a number of the sport’s top referees have spent countless hours training including John McCarthy and Herb Dean. Fortunately, retired fighters like Ricardo Almeida are also starting to give judging a go as well – a trend Melendez and fans worldwide hope to see continue.
PHOTO CREDIT – MMAWEEKLY