by Mick Hammond
Gilbert Melendez is feeling great and is ready to take the American lightweight scene by storm.
After years of primarily fighting in Japan, “Ill Nino” is on the verge of his biggest showdown stateside, as he defends his Strikeforce title against top 155-pound contender Josh Thomson. The fight is the main event of the promotion’s June 27 fight card taking place at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
“I guess it was inevitable that it’d happen,” said Melendez of the recently finalized fight. “Initially I didn’t think it was ever going to happen, but now that it is, I’m excited for it, pumped up and motivated.
“I’m ready for it. You learn to switch modes and become an animal and right now I’m out to get Josh. I’m out to get him.”
After some initial confusion following an early press release by Strikeforce about the match’s status as a fully agreed to bout, Melendez is now able to officially announce his participation in the fight.
“Everything’s ready to go,” he confirmed. “(I) gave it the go, gave it the thumbs up, and I’m ready. I’m ready to take on all challengers.”
Currently the No. 5 ranked lightweight in the world, Melendez is coming off a dominating performance over Gabe Lemley at March’s Strikeforce event, while Thomson had an equally impressive outing in his win over Adam Lynn last September.
Together the two California standouts have amassed an impressive 27-3 combined record in their professional careers.
When it comes to the fight now at hand, Melendez says, “I think it’s going to be a great match-up.
“It’s really going to be high-paced and we’re both going to go for the win. I don’t think anyone’s going to sit and hold back anything.”
What has him even more excited than fighting a long-time rival is the fact that, for the first time in his career, Melendez is the main event of a major U.S. event.
“I’ve headlined a few times in Japan on Shooto shows, but this is my first time headlining in the U.S. and it’s a very anticipated, tough fight that’s main event material,” he commented.
“I was made for this – I was born for this – right here.”
Melendez intends to use this gigantic opportunity to truly launch his assault on the American lightweight scene and prove he belongs with the likes of B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk and other top fighters in competing promotions.
He exclaimed, “On the way to the top, I said I’d take on anyone on the way here. Now that I’m here, I still want to take anyone on that wants to take me out.
“My mindset is right now, ‘I’ll fight anybody. I’m the champ. I take on all challengers. Anyone want to step up?’”