Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez wanted to be a part of the promotion’s final show, but his injured shoulder had other ideas.
Melendez suffered the injury prior to his last scheduled fight against Pat Healy in September. Despite his best attempts at getting back in fight shape, the healing process just didn’t go as planned to allow him to fight in January.
“I was looking forward to doing the fight and I wanted to do it, I just wanted to test my shoulder to be 100-percent to compete. I said I really want to do this fight, let me just make sure my shoulder is good. We were all positive thinking my shoulder would hold up, and I want to fight, but my shoulder didn’t hold up. It did re-injure and I did pick it up a little too early,” Melendez told MMAWeekly Radio recently.
“I’m sorry about that to Pat (Healy), but it is what it is.”
For now, Melendez is focused on getting healthy so he can book his next fight, which may very well be in the UFC, as Strikeforce is expected to close up shop following its January event. As far as his contract is concerned, Melendez doesn’t have much more information than the rest of us when it comes to Strikeforce’s ultimate fate and the fighters moving over to compete in the Octagon.
Of course Melendez is ready for that challenge whenever it happens, and he’s eyeing the top spot on day one.
“Your eyes are always on the guy with the UFC strap. Your eyes were on Frankie Edgar for a long time, and B.J. (Penn) for a long time, and everyone needs to adapt for the champ, to figure out how to beat them. I think about it all the time with Benson (Henderson),” said Melendez.
Henderson recently defeated Melendez’s teammate Nate Diaz to defend his UFC lightweight title. As much as he could with an injured shoulder, Melendez was there every day to help his teammate get ready, and it helped him start to break down how he would fight the UFC champion when his turn comes.
Melendez knows that he is the other obstacle standing in Henderson’s way from defining himself as the No. 1 lightweight in the world, so why not put that fight together and answer all the questions?
“If he wants to be undoubtedly No. 1, I think that would be a good victory for him to prove it or for me to prove otherwise. Another fight if I was in the UFC would be fine with me as well, but I’m ready now,” said Melendez.
“The fire was lit a couple of weeks ago. Since the buzz has been out, the fire has been lit. I definitely feel that.”
For now Melendez is focused on getting healthy. He heads back to the doctor next week and hopes to get final clearance to return to fight training.
Then it’s all about getting in shape and getting ready for the next challenge ahead. Melendez certainly hopes that challenge is named Benson Henderson.
“I hope everyone would get as excited as I would be about that,” Melendez stated. “In a perfect world. I’d love that fight with Benson, I really would.”