Henderson fought at UFC on Fox 5 in early December and pulled off a dominant five-round decision over Nate Diaz to mark his third win in 2012.
Now as he looks to continue his reign atop the division in 2013, Henderson starts the year with a challenge of champion against champion as Melendez moves over to the UFC after spending the last few years as the king of Strikeforce.
“I am beyond thrilled to be competing again on network TV for the UFC on Fox 7 card against Gilbert Melendez. It’s an honor to be put in this position by both the UFC and Fox executives, who are placing trust in me to be able to deliver another exciting fight on live TV. The fans can expect to see a lot of action from two fighters who have aggressive styles. It should be a fun night,” Henderson said on Tuesday.
Following his last title defense, most wondered who would be the next challenger to Henderson’s crown, but after Strikeforce ultimately went out of business, the Melendez fight just made sense.
Gilbert Melendez has been ranked as high as No. 1 and no lower than No. 3 over the last couple of years in the lightweight division and now he’ll get his chance to prove he belongs among the best in the world as part of the UFC.
For Henderson’s part, he didn’t really care who he faced because he wants to face all the best fighters at 155 pounds. Melendez just gets the chance to be next in line.
“Gilbert Melendez is one of the toughest fighters on the planet. I’ve said over and over that I just want to fight the best in the world. I don’t care in what order I face them, but I want to fight the best in the biggest fights. He has been the Strikeforce lightweight champion, and is going to be real hungry in his first UFC fight,” said Henderson.
If there is one common theme between the upcoming fight against Melendez and Henderson’s last fight against Diaz, it’s that his opponents happen to be close friends and longtime training partners.
So Henderson has to know that Diaz will do everything in his power to get Melendez ready for the title shot after spending 25 minutes in the cage with the champion in December.
“Gilbert Melendez trains with Nate Diaz, so I’m sure there will be some strategy shared in his camp from my last fight. I don’t concern myself with that, however. I will have my own game plan and it will be up to me to execute that. I can’t worry about how he will plan to fight me, only on how I plan to fight him” Henderson stated.
The UFC has definitely kept Henderson active since winning the title last February. He fought and defended his belt in August and then again in December, and now gets a fight in the first quarter of 2013 as well.
Henderson vs. Melendez headlines the upcoming UFC on Fox 7 fight card landing in San Jose, Calif. on April 20.