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Gilbert Melendez Wants to Fight the Best, but He’s Out on a Strikeforce Island

Posted on by Ken Pishna

Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal at StrikeforceWhen Zuffa took over Strikeforce, they raided the roster, moving most of the top tier fighters to the UFC. Strikeforce champions Jake Shields, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, and Nick Diaz quickly made the jump into the Octagon.

The lone man left out on an island? Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.

There was a time, when it looked to everyone that the working relationship between Zuffa and Showtime wasn’t working at all, that Melendez was going to make the move alongside his fellow champions.

Showtime became a partner with Strikeforce prior to Zuffa’s buyout. The premium cable network maintained much more control over the product than was typical for a Zuffa broadcast partner, which had become a sticking point. It appeared that a parting of ways was unavoidable.

“We do want to bring Gilbert Melendez over and we’re looking at it right now,” UFC president Dana White said last October, when the Strikeforce/Showtime partnership was in the red zone.

Shortly after White made his sentiments public, the wheels began rolling again, eventually leading to Zuffa working out a deal to keep Strikeforce on Showtime.

One major piece of the puzzle was to keep Melendez, Strikeforce belt affixed firmly around his waist, leading the charge on Showtime.

White announced the renewed deal to keep Strikeforce on the network, saying that Melendez was happy to remain as the promotion’s centerpiece, and that the UFC president would become much more hands-on.

“I will dive into this thing and I will make it right. I will make the fighters who fight over there not worry about what’s going on in the UFC,” said White. “I’m gaining more control over Strikeforce. We’re going to have a lot of cool things happening over the next few weeks.”

It all sounded great in theory, but didn’t quite work out the way the plan was initially laid out.

White tried to live up to his end of the bargain, jumping in, making suggestions to help ramp up Strikeforce; going as far as saying that Strikeforce would not be a second-tier promotion. He intended for it to eventually be considered on equal footing with the UFC.

Despite his efforts, there were powers that be at Showtime seeing things in a different light, eventually leading White to back away.

That left Melendez stranded, trying to prove himself to be the top lightweight in the world with little opposition considered worthy enough for him to stake his claim.

Melendez is now slated to face Josh Thomson for a third time on May 19 in San Jose, Calif. Thomson is a good fighter – one of only two men to hand Melendez a loss – but Melendez dominated him the last time they met. Thomson is also just one fight removed from his last loss, to a fighter that Melendez finished in the first round.

Thomson is a solid opponent, but not one that will prove Melendez’s point. White, and everyone else, knows it.

“Gilbert Melendez is a Strikeforce fighter and he’s been great (to deal with),” said the UFC president. “He wants to come over here (to the UFC) and he wants to challenge himself against the best, and I know a lot of other people want to see it too, but he’s in that Strikeforce deal.”

It’s not that White didn’t try to do something more for Melendez; he did. He tried to get former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn to face Melendez under the Strikeforce banner, but Penn has been in a semi-retired state since his last loss, still trying to determine whether he will ever fight again. He turned down the offer to face Melendez.

“The thing that sucks for Gilbert, that’s disappointing, I was 100-percent fired up and gung ho to go over there and work on Strikeforce. The whole thing fell apart. I know he’s bummed out about it, and other people are too, but it is what it is. It just didn’t work out.”

The sting is surely even worse for Melendez now, witnessing the likes of Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard signing with the UFC, and former Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez sitting cageside at a recent UFC with White, being courted to move to the Octagon once his current contract is up.

Citing a lack of enough heavyweight talent to run two separate divisions, the UFC also assimilated the Strikeforce heavyweight division into its folds, rubbing more salt in the wound.

And don’t think it’s a money issue for Melendez. He made that clear when talk about moving him into the UFC several months ago had reached a fever pitch. Everyone wants to make more money, but he’s not upset with the money under his current contract.

“Money doesn’t really mean nothing at this point; my money’s good,” Melendez told MMAWeekly.com. “I’m happy with my money. If (White) told me to come fight for the same price, I would do it.

“Either way, it’s inevitable. I’m coming for all the 55-pounders and I really want to prove I’m No. 1. Part of being No. 1 is beating everyone, every match-up. I think I can beat every style out there.”

Gilbert Melendez just wants to be afforded the opportunity to prove what he already believes, that he is the best lightweight fighter on the planet. But it looks like he’ll have to wait a while longer, wading the cloudy waters of Strikeforce.


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  • smill0313

    I like gilbert, he is tough as nails. With that being said, he is not the #1 lw and he better be careful not to go the route of fedor. He is in no way facing the top of the division, and is one punch away from losing his credibility. He is in a no-win situation as long as he stays in strikforce.

    • KBEsq

      Yeah, I have never understood why he’s ranked so highly. Of course, if you mention that on this site, you get ridiculed. He may be the number one, two or three LW in the world, but at this time, it’s not justifiable to put him there based upon the competition he’s faced. That’s the argument I try to make. Not that he’s NOT really as good as how he’s ranked, but that you cannot justify ranking him that high at this time. That’s all.

      *puts on flame helmet*

  • http://www.bloodyfists.net/forums/index.php SHORT_BUS

    A king with no court.

  • RonnieV

    Gilbert is in a tough spot, and is trapped in a weaker promotion. UFC needs to buck up and send him some contenders, since he contractually cannot join the UFC. I don’t downplay Melendez’s ranking, even his training partner (Nate Diaz) consider him the Top lightweight in the world. I would say that is a pretty credible source considering Nate is ranked in the Top 5. In my mind, Gilbert is #3, behind Frankie & Bendo.

    • Triggerman99

      Yeah that’s exactly where I have him; #3 behind Bendo and Edgar. It sucks for him being over there. I would like to see a few fighters from the UFC go over and mix things up a bit, but I just don’t see anybody willing to do that (anybody top-tier, I mean). The SF belt obviously doesn’t mean as much as the UFC belt, so I just don’t see any top 5 or top 7 guys leaving the UFC to basicly step down to SF.

  • BlackDog2009

    He’s about to face Josh Thompson and this article will look pretty stupid if Thompson comes in and gets a win, or worse, knocks out Gilbert. It’s always a bad idea to look past an opponent no matter who it is. UFC needs to inject Strikeforce with some guys: Guida, Pettis, Louson, Guillard come to mind. The Nate Marquart move was a good one. IN closing I blame Scott Coker… wtf is this guy doing?? It’s his job to get more young blood and some established fighters into Strikeforce. Coker you now have the Zuffa banner behind you, use it, pull strings, get people fired up! But I’m afraid Coker is just cashing in now.

    • shakejunt

      Why would any UFC fighter go over to SF? We can all see the ship is sinking.

  • http://www.bloodyfists.net/forums/index.php SHORT_BUS

    I think Showtime’s resistance to taking advice from Dana / Zuffa on things like marketing, broadcasting and production is why Zuffa won’t be going above and beyond what they’re contractually obligated to do. Zuffa will do just enough to put on cards until the Showtime contract expires and then they’ll fold SF into the UFC.

  • D-rail

    Trapped. Get ur fights out of the way and bail! There’s nothing left for any lightweight in strikefarse. It’s a Showtime downward spiral path, that’s it. Not worth the money or your prime. Figure out an exit strategy and Gtfo! Fight two mofos in one night if u have to, and get those fights out of the way…..capish? U heard it from the boss himself, he was shut down by Showtime and that’s what’s up….

  • D-rail

    And when u get to the UFC, you’ll have a chance to shut those deusch bags up who doubt “El Nino”. Their tiny brains only revolve around UFC fighters and that’s it. No one outside of there is relevant, ignoring the fact hat Dana himself acknowledge u as a top lightweight and really tried to get u over there.

    • macgrubber

      Bad troll bro

    • rsnowbass

      What my tiny brain knows, is that the most competitive lightweight fighters are all in the UFC. No offense to Gilbert, but if he wants the respect HE DESERVES, he will have to start getting wins in the UFC plain and simple.

      It also revolves around snowboarding, baseball and sales.

      • RonnieV

        Read the article dude, he contractuallly can’t go to the UFC.

        • rsnowbass

          Dude…I TOTALLY read the article MAAAAN, but it was hard for my tiny brain to comprehend.

          I was just stating the obvious, that he needs to get there ASAP and start racking up some wins so that people stop arguing over his current ranking. I was agreeing with D-Rail’s first post. (I think)

  • Cptmats

    Gil is a “b” class fighter in a “c”class org. period !
    If and when he steps up to the big time everyone will see how over-rated he is.
    Doubt he makes top five, Thompson has a very good chance of beating him !

  • Mario

    Everybody keeps talking about Gilbert, but what about his opponent?

    I see Josh making the most of this opportunity. The 2nd fight between these two was a good scrap.

    3rd fight should be good, too!

  • maddawgmar

    There is something that everyone is forgetting, every UFC fighter, even the champs, come from an organization that is considered to be inferior to the UFC. Ben Henderson, Carlos Condit were considered to be overrated and was gonna flop against UFC competition. But when they came over look what happened.

    If Gil was able to fight in the UFC he would be competitive with the top five. Would he win the Championship maybe, maybe not. But don’t discredit him because he was forced to stay in SF. It’s not like he wants the easy fights, he want top guys they just can’t get it to him.

    • Triggerman99

      LOL
      I was writing my post below as you posted this. Just wanted to let you know I wasn’t riding your jock, we just happened to have the same idea at roughly the same time. lol

  • Triggerman99

    It’s honestly really difficult to guage how SF compares to the UFC as far talent level. Obviously the UFC is much deeper, but the guys at the top of their respective divisions have proven to be at least relatively comparable. There’s a few excpeptions (for example, Jake Shields being completely dominant in SF and EliteXC, then being basicly mediocre in the UFC), but look at guys like Fabricio Werdum and Nick Diaz. They were in SF for a long time and doing very well, and then came to the UFC and continued to hold their own.
    It’s kind of a mixed bag. Sort of like when Pride folded into the UFC.

    • macgrubber

      ya if doing good is getting released by the ufc then yes werdum did awsome. guys a stud. and coming back to the ufc from sf after his loss to the reem he has 1 win? Nick also only has 1 win since coming over. How do you consider 1 win in the ufc being comparable when werdum won against nelson who isnt close to top tier and nick beat penn who many consider was not in that fight. So far they all look mediocre until they beat better comp.

      • Triggerman99

        Yeah, I know Werdum got realeased by the UFC. I’m talking about his time in SF. he was right near the top in SF, and then came to the UFC. He did well in his return fight to the UFC. Dominant, in fact. Diaz beat Penn outright. The haters can say whatever they want after the fact, but Penn was a win from a title shot in that fight, and he got beat. The idea that Penn “was not in the fight” is played-out.
        But whatever. Diaz and other SF transfers have done much better in their UFC returns than anyone predicted. There’s no denying that.

        • macgrubber

          Trigger you give them way to much credit. Werdum came and destroyed nelson. WOW who cares thats not a huge accomplishment. Someone dominating a C level fighter doesnt make you great it makes you C+. and again diaz won against penn thats great but look what condit did to him. So werdum can beat low level fighters and nick cant beat the top contenders. They are mediocre at best until they beat top comp.

      • RealmmaFan

        macgrubber is just one of those guys who thought Brock lesnar was number one when he had the UFC title I dont think just because your in the UFC doesnt mean your fighting the best Werdums wins over fedor and bigfoot are much bigger wins than his ones in the UFC like roy nelson and his upcoming fight against mike russow former pride fc fighter undefeated in ufc and was subbed by sergei I mean if UFC has all the good fighters why is werdum stepping down in competition and why do the champs from smaller promotions like WEC become champs in the UFC?

        • macgrubber

          No one cares about wins over fedor (who is garbage) and bigfoot since he got embaresed by the reem before he came over. And what are you talking about the champs from smaller promotions becoming champs? WEC holds the 145 and 155 belts and UFC never had a 145 division so they hold the 155. GSP isnt retired so until condit beats him hes still the champ. So they hold 1 belt.

          • smill0313

            They also hold the 170 title with condit. That’s titles in the 3 most talent stacked divisions in the ufc. It doesn’t matter what promotion you came from, most great fighters got their start in lower promotions. The undeniable fact is that most elite fighters migrate to the ufc and that’s where you go to fight the best.

  • D-rail

    MADDAWGMAR gets it.

  • mradriel1

    Gilbert has the skills to beat all of the 155 pounders in the UFC.

    • RealmmaFan

      If nate diaz takes UFC gold then what? Gilbert wont fight nate I think dana predicted this and thats why he isnt trying to hard to get Gilbert I think strikeforce has a chance of becoming a solid promotion like Pride as long as it keeps doing tournys and doesnt give all there top tier fighters to the UFC. There is no reason why gilbert cant fight in UFC and Strikeforce hell UFC can just set up tournys in strikeforce with some UFc fighters to make it more interesting.

  • Triggerman99

    Yeah I think Nate going on this tear and earning a title shot is kind of a curve ball as far as Melendez coming to the UFC is concerned. If Nate manages to capture the title-and somehow hold onto it for awhile- what would Melendez do when he gets to the UFC? (he is coming over sooner or later; that’s inevitable)
    Neither guy can be competitive at WW due to their size. Could Gilbert drop to FW? That would actually be pretty sweet, IMO.