Gilbert Melendez Fights Benson Henderson for More Than the UFC Title

April 15, 2013
32 Comments

GilbertMelendez6X8J0102UFC lightweight contender Gilbert Melendez says there’s no added pressure to win heading into his UFC on Fox 7 title bout with champion Benson Henderson, but the stakes are high and what’s on the line is more than simply a title.

Melendez, the last Strikeforce lightweight titleholder, has lobbied for years to get a shot in the UFC.  Regarded as the best lightweight to have never fought in the Octagon, Melendez has spent the last seven years in Strikeforce.  Contractual champion clauses kept him from making his long awaited debut, until now.

Melendez has been ranked in the top five for years.  In 2006, Melendez first cracked the top five, when Henderson had only one professional fight.  The April 20 title fight is a champion vs. champion match-up, but Melendez feels like the challenger.

“I feel like I am somewhat of a challenger and walking into new territory.  It’s a whole new organization, different type stage.  Ben Henderson is the champ in the UFC,” said Melendez on a media conference call promoting the event.

Henderson, in his last fight, defeated Melendez’s friend and long-time training partner Nate Diaz by unanimous decision.  Melendez cornered Diaz that night, and has been itching for the opportunity to avenge his teammate’s loss.

“When your buddies fight you can’t help but get a little emotional out there and passionate.  You’re bummed for your friend when he fights and if you can back your friend up you will.  At that point I was like give me the opportunity to avenge my friend.  Give me the opportunity to fight this dude.  I can do it,” he said.  “That was kind of going through my head, and I was just licking my chops hoping to get the opportunity, and I did.”

Melendez trains out of the Cesar Gracie camp, as well as his own gym, El Nino Sports, and the Fairtex Gym.  Many of his Cesar Gracie training partners have had UFC title fights and all of them have come up short.  A Cesar Gracie fighter has fought for a UFC title on six different occasions, and were defeated all six times.

Given the team’s title fight track record, Melendez would like to be the one to bring home UFC gold.

“I hope to win the title for my team, but I really try not to put too much pressure on myself.  I go out there and fight and fight my fight,” he said.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment for my whole team just to even get title fights.  Not many teams can say that.  Dave Terrell, Gil Castillo, Nick (Diaz), Jake (Shields), and Nate (Diaz) have all had title fights.  That’s great for our team.  If anything, it’s an accomplishment for our team.  But I’d love to be able to bring that title back to the gym and share it with those guys.”

Be sure to Like MMAWeekly.com on Facebook and Follow @MMAWeeklycom on Twitter.

  • JOE SHINE

    Look for Gilbert to win in not an upset but just win.

    • projectchapter2

      Agreed. Bendo = Most Overrated Champ.

      • falloniousWolf

        Bendo = the least well-known champ for the reason that there is no hype or coverage.

        This doesn’t mean he is overrated. He just became champion, not sure if there is much to talk about him.

        But Gilbert is even more of a question mark than Bendo. At least Bendo beat some good guys in the UFC, captured the title, and defended it a few times.

        What has Gil done?

        • Mark McDowall

          Gil held the SF title…and beat some mediocre guys at best. Which is not saying much…

          • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

            Agreed. No disrespect to Gil, tough guy and all but Ben Hendersons resume is full of very tough guys. Diaz, Edgar and Miller alone are his best wins.

        • projectchapter2

          What has Gil done? As a fan of MMA for more than a few months, I can tell you that Gil used to go through the gauntlet during his time in PRIDE. He did extremely well in the Bushido tournament with only a hiccup against Kawajiri, when Kawajiri was simply as his all-time best. Melendez was on the top 10 LW chart when there was only ONE UFC fighter on it (Sean Sherk). Even when Florian and BJ Penn broke the top ten, Melendez was a young up and comer in the game, but with solid experience and cracking top 5. When Melendez was top 3, Bendo was putting away gatekeepers Varner and Cerrone (granted, neither of these guys has chosen their competition so you cannot blame either). Thomson > Varner and at least equal too Cerrone. I’m sure people without knowledge will say Aoki sucks too.

          My point is this: Gil has experience and for people to say “Who has he fought?” shows lack of knowledge of the fight game. There is more to MMA than the UFC and Bendo has beaten ONE legit fighter (Edgar, and he lost the 2nd and arguably the 1st fight too). Gil, meanwhile, has been taking names for 6-8 years and is still young.

          I’m not saying Gil is a shoe-in… I’m saying people who think this won’t be close are freaking idiots.

  • Sir_Roy

    Ben’s got this. But Melendez is going to make him work to keep the gold.

    • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

      I see it that way as well. I hope Edgar goes back up, there are still some nice fights for him at LW. I wouldn’t mind seeing him and Melendez go at it.

      • Supaman

        Strongly disagree. Edgar gets beat up so bad after each LW fight (even the ones he ends up winning) his career would be so short.

        Edgar is great at 145 and if anything could move down to 135. Even Aldo was clearly bigger than Edgar.

        Edgar and Melendez wouldn’t be good for Edgar b/c Melendez’s boxing is just as good and w/ his superior reach advantage, Edgar would get jabbed to death from the outside.

        Personally, I’d rather see Edgar move down another 10 and fight Urijah. Otherwise, exciting fights for Edgar at 145 include Korean Zombie, Cub Swanson, Chad Mendes.

        • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

          I would love to see Edgar and Faber at 135 or 145. Frankie gets beat up in all of his fights. He just stays in and usually pulls out the win. Chad Mendes would be a good fight. I’d like Korean Zombie to fight Cub. Who do you have for Pettis/Aldo? Everyone has been bad mouthing Aldo lately with his fights but the guy cuts a lot of weight and is fighting some tough guys. I think this will be his toughest test and probably the most exciting fight.

    • Mark McDowall

      I don’t think it will be any harder than his fight with Diaz. Henderson will come away with the win pretty handily.

      Melendez has fought 1(at the time of the fight) top 10 opponent. Now he’s stepping up and fighting the #1 LW in the world. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it…a fighter is only as good as the opponents he has fought. And Melendez hasn’t fought any top opponents. I don’t care if a fighter is 41326-0. If they haven’t fought anyone tough then it isn’t as impressive with someone with a 7-4 record who has fought tough fighters.

      • MMAreality

        Well said.I think that this is the problem with all of the strikeforce champs and fighters. They have moved from minors to the majors and are thrown to the lions by getting these title fights for their first fight in the UFC. I think that the UFC should give them a 5-10 ranked top contender and see if they can play with the big boys.

  • Milos Rackovic

    Gil solid physicaly here but skill set is all on Benson,gonna be a good scramble

  • JOE SHINE

    It’s Gilbert’s time finally to shine as a star.

    • MMAreality

      Not going to happen he will be out classed in all aspects.

  • jason

    Bendo overrated? The guy’s a monster and he’ll fight anyone anytime. He’s right where he deserves to be. Melindez will put up a great fight, can’t wait!

    • JOE SHINE

      Gilbert is way to quick and talented for Benny.

      • George Sperry

        Gilbert isn’t fast at all. His punches take forever to land.

    • Steven Thurman

      Honestly i think there is a good chance he will win, by decision of course. But I believe Alvarez will be able to beat him if he comes into the ufc, and if Pettis loses to Aldo, I can see him coming back and beating Bendo, and Fight of the year if it was Pettis vs. Alvarez

  • http://twitter.com/fightcrazy Vinny

    El Nino is going to chop that tree down. Styles make fights and Melendez has the right style to win this fight. I will be betting heavy on this fight. ElNino will be the next UFC Champion.

  • MMAreality

    Melendez is going to prove what every other Strikeforce fighter has proved that the UFC is a level above and beyond them. I think that Benson decisively wins this fight.

    • Kenny powers

      Well technicaly strikeforce fighters did pretty well so far. And everybody said the same thing about WEC fighters unitl they came in and wrecked the UFC. And Gil was fighting everywhere a long time before UFC had all the best guys. Hes got the all around game to give Bendo a tough fight, so i wouldnt sell him short

      • MMAreality

        Sure they may have done OK. But none have been even close to title contenders.

        • Lucas Freire

          Because none of the top fighters of SF have had more than 2 or 3 fights.
          Tyron Woodley,Luke Rockhold,Jacaré,Gilbert Melendez…they’ll all be top contenders for sure.

  • Truth

    Shocked by how many people are overlooking Gilbert but I’m guessin it’s b/c most fans are only familiar w/ UFC fighters.

    For those saying that these “strikeforce guys don’t know what it’s like” must’ve forgotten that Bendo was a WEC guy and came in and cleaned house to become champ. Gilbert’s been around for awhile and was a monster in PRIDE when PRIDE was like UFC today and UFC was like Strikeforce.

    For those predicting to go down like Bendo vs Diaz are mistaken. Diaz is way too predictable in that he tries to win on his boxing, but then’ll get taken down and then tries to win w/ his BJJ.

    However, Gilbert is a totally different animal than Nate Diaz. Gilbert’s boxing is as solid w/ more power, good BJJ, but the biggest difference is that Gilbert’s strength is WRESTLING.

    Bendo has been an underrated wrestler and if his is superior than Gilbert’s then that’s a VERY good sign for Bendo. Bendo probably has more diverse striking but the big problem for him is that Gilbert is taller and has more reach. If he’s able to keep Bendo on the outside, then it could be trouble for Bendo.

    bottom line: This fight should be very close and interesting. Gilbert should have a sliver of an edge, but really close to 50/50. Those saying Bendo will walk through Gilbert are clueless.

    • projectchapter2

      Finally, an intelligent argument on the subject. I appreciate it.

    • Lucas Freire

      What makes me think that Bendo will come out of this fight is his amazing conditioning,also,he’s HUGE for LW. I’m not talking about height,but about sheer force and weight. I think he’s one of the biggest guys on the division.

  • Truth

    Bendo has been really underrated by alot of people just b/c he hasn’t had the flashy KOs.

    The man has is so ridiculously well-rounded.

    STRIKING: check (not just boxing, but uses his TKD)
    WRESTLING: check
    SUBMISSIONS: check (aggressive offensively, rubberman defensively)
    MOVEMENT: check
    CARDIO: check
    can fight w/ toothpick in mouth: check

    Ben has power in his strikes, so it is a bit surprising that he hasn’t had more KOs, but then again he’s been fighting some notoriously hard guys to finish.

    HOWEVER, people shouldn’t sleep on Gilbert. Those saying he’s just a “Strikeforce Champ” will see for themselves, he’s the real deal, just as Bendo was when he came to UFC.

    This’ll be a GREAT fight, very even.

  • kidfury

    It’s funny how everyone thinks that you can’t migrate tongue ufc and be good… Where do you think all of the fighters on the ufc roaster are coming from… Some ufc farm in Vegas where they grow “ufc” fighters…. The ufc is not the end all be all… Does anyone remember the Pride days. Bendo is going to be the next Gsp.. a none Finnisher.

    • kidfury

      *migrate from

  • JOE SHINE

    Look for melendez victory on pts.

  • Orville

    Henderson lost to Pettis…and since then who has he really beat?..Bocek, Miller, Guida, decision decision Decision, Edgar, Diaz. C’mon man!