Sometimes having your boss praise you or give you their seal of approval is as good as any title or paycheck you can receive.
Gilbert Melendez has been ranked among the top lightweights in the world for several years now, but when he heard UFC president Dana White mention his name as one of the best fighters in his division, that was the best news he could hear.
The talk at the time centered around Melendez’s possible defection to the UFC, but now as he embarks on his latest title fight in Strikeforce, the champion isn’t thinking so much about jumping ship.
“I think it’s inevitable I’m heading there (to the UFC). I’m an entertaining fighter, I put on good shows and they see that. I’m just really happy that they’re recognizing me. Any time Dana White mentions my name it’s awesome. Dana White’s the man in this sport, and if he says I’m legit, then I’m legit,” Melendez told MMAWeekly Radio.
“That’s the best thing I got out of that.”
The attention that comes along with praise from Dana White also brings a certain spotlight that can shine very bright. Melendez knows since he’s been mentioned time and time again by White that the target on his back just got a lot bigger and the expectations have been raised.
Now it’s his time to live up to those expectations and prove the UFC president right.
“It’s definitely something you want. There’s always the pressure, there’s always the pros and cons of it, but I want people to watch me,” said Melendez. “Cause I know I’m going to deliver some sort of entertaining fight. Whether I win or lose, I’m going to go out there and put it on the line. I want to be able to gain some fans from that and be able to brand myself. I do welcome that.”
Melendez isn’t the first fighter to feel the pressure that comes along with a certain amount of hype. When Zuffa purchased Pride Fighting Championships, many fighters were expected to come in and wreck the competition in the UFC, but it didn’t happen.
Top fighters from all over Japan have migrated to the U.S. and very few of them have attained the same level of success as they did in their home country.
Melendez knows that the onus is on him to go out and perform and show the world what he’s all about. If he truly is the No. 1 lightweight in the world, he should be able to beat Jorge Masvidal at Saturday night’s Strikeforce event in San Diego.
“This is the one where I’m supposed to choke, or I’m not supposed to show up or just like ‘what’s wrong with Gilbert?’ and this is the challenge I’ve got to go through,” said Melendez. “I’ve got to deliver because I’m supposed to win; I’ve got to make sure everyone’s right.”