It was an exciting night for Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez on Saturday in Washington, D.C. … and he wasn’t even fighting.
The No. 1 ranked lightweight in the world was informed that UFC president Dana White announced Melendez was headed to the UFC sooner rather than later, and they wanted the current Strikeforce champion in the UFC right now.
While no formal offers have come across the table just yet, Melendez spoke exclusively to MMAWeekly.com on Saturday night after hearing the news.
“It’s exciting that the boss definitely wants me over to the UFC, because it’s definitely a good move for me,” Melendez said. “As far as I’m concerned (Jorge) Masvidal is the next guy on my list, and I’m focusing 100-percent on him, so before I get too excited, I’m just focusing on tearing that guy up. But definitely my goal is to be in the UFC, so if we can get that there sooner than later, I’m all for it.”
Melendez has been preparing for a December match-up with top contender Masvidal, but it appears his reign as Strikeforce lightweight champion may have come to an abrupt end.
So what’s it going to take for Melendez to officially become a UFC fighter?
“Basically, it would be a phone call from Dana saying drop everything, you’re coming to the UFC,” Melendez explained. “I’d be there in a heartbeat. Money doesn’t really mean nothing at this point, my money’s good. I’m happy with my money. If he told me to come fight for the same price, I would do it.”
White said they are hoping to finalize a deal to bring Melendez to the Octagon very, very soon, like yesterday, and all but confirmed he would not be facing Masvidal in December.
As far as who Melendez might face in his UFC debut, most would point to him getting the winner of the UFC 136 main event between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard as the most likely candidate.
White says that nothing is guaranteed at this point because sometimes a top contender in the lightweight division is made mostly out of timing, but Melendez getting a shot on day one is feasible.
As far as Melendez is concerned, he says line them up and he’ll knock them down… title fight or no title fight.
“Either way, it’s inevitable. I’m coming for all the 55-pounders and I really want to prove I’m No. 1. It would be nice to get a title shot, but if I need to come through it and work my way up, I’m more than willing. Part of being No. 1 is beating everyone, every match-up. I think I can beat every style out there. It doesn’t really matter to me,” said Melendez.
“Whatever Dana wants. Whatever he wants, I’ll do.”
So it sounds like it’s just a matter of a phone call and a few contracts being signed and Gilbert Melendez will get to realize his long time dream and will soon become a UFC fighter.