by Luis Cruz – MMAWeekly.com

One of the top lightweights in the world and the current Strikeforce<br /> lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez has been wreaking h

One of the top
lightweights in the world and the current Strikeforce lightweight champion,
Gilbert Melendez has been wreaking havoc on the 155-pound division in the
states and overseas. We caught up with Melendez to talk about his upcoming
fight with Josh Thomson, the No. 1 contender to his Strikeforce lightweight
title and good friend. Melendez gives his take on this fight and other things
pertaining to MMA’s lightweight division around the world.


Gilbert, thanks
for taking some time out for us. You have a tough fight this Friday, not only
physically, but I would also assume mentally as you face someone you have been
good friends with for the last couple of years. First, tell us your thoughts on
how your training is going and whom you’re working with.


GM – No problem. My training has been
going great, nothing really different. I always pushed myself hard and to the
limit. I was working for five five-minute rounds for my last fight, so it made
it easier to jump into the five and five for this fight. So that’s good and I
had good training partners in Nick and Nate Diaz, and of course Jake Shields.
He (Jake) is the biggest nightmare ever. He’s really discouraging when he’s
whooping my ass, but I know when I tangled with someone else they’re not as
tough or as strong as him so it’s been going really good. I also drove out to
San Diego and trained with Diego Sanchez a little bit, so it was really cool
out there.

Both you and Josh
have extensive resumes. Who do you feel has had the tougher list of opponents?


GM – I’d like to say it’s even man. I
mean, he’s a pioneer in this sport and has fought everybody. He’s fought Yves
Edwards, Hermes Franca, and (Clay) Guida. He’s fought some real tough guys. As
of late, I think my resume is better, fighting Guida and winning, also fighting
a lot of undefeated fighters at the time. I fought (Tatsuya) Kawajiri, who is a
stud. (Mitsuhiro) Ishida is a stud. Kaynan Kaku, (Hiroyuki) Takaya, and
(Nobuhiro) Obiya, all those guys were undefeated when I fought them. Also Olaf
(Alfonso), there were a lot of guys, so I think I have a pretty good resume,
slightly better, but his is just as good too. This is going to be a good one
for both our resumes.


I’ll ask you the
same thing I asked Josh. How hard is it for you to actually try to physically
hurt someone that you actually consider a friend rather than just another


GM – If somebody told me to do that today
and right now for free, I would never do that man. I’m not going to go pick a
fight with Josh, of course not. But once they close that cage and it’s in there
and my belt is on the line, my future is on the line, and my career is on the
line, it’s going to be real easy to hit him man. It’s going to be real, real
easy for me to hit him. I don’t think he’s going to have a problem trying to
take off my head and I’m not going to have a problem doing the same to him. I
would expect nothing less from him.


Where do you feel
Josh’s strengths are that could give you a problem?


GM –
Well, I think he’s
a well rounded MMA fighter, so he has strengths everywhere. That’s also where I’m
strong at, so it’s basically going to be a test of wills and who wants it more
in this fight. I think it’s going to be one of those fights that goes
everywhere. Josh is one of those guys who has really good hands with nice long
arms and is just a really good striker, so I think that’s his main thing and
that’s one of my things, but I’d rather be a wrestler and ground and pound. I’m
willing to do anything in there, but I think he likes to stand more and he has
pretty good stand-up. I think he has strengths there, but people will be
surprised at my stand up as well.


Would you give
him the edge in the stand-up department?


GM – I wouldn’t say an edge. I think on
any given day anyone can have the edge, but I feel that’s his focus and he
could give me some problems there, but I think I can give him just as much


Where do you feel
Josh will mainly have a hard time with you?


GM – I feel it’s the same for him. I feel
like I’m more of a wrestler with the ground and pound and I like to do that and
that’s where I want to be. But I also feel like he’s capable of fighting off
his back or even wrestling as well with me. Most guys I never answer questions
this way, but him I feel he’s a true mixed martial artist and so am I. Many
guys out there are still two-dimensional like strikers and jiu-jitsu guys where
him and I are some of the few who are MMA fighters that transition from
punching to shooting to grounding and pounding to getting up, which makes for a
great match up. Most opponents I can say I have a strength against them, but in
this one we have an almost similar style. We have slight strengths in certain
places of course, but overall we’re similar styles and true MMA fighters.


What are your
thoughts on WAMMA and having a unified or recognized champion for each weight
class in MMA and do you think it’ll ever get there with organizations like the
UFC who seem to be at a great distance from joining something like that?


GM – Man I would hope to see that one
day, but I feel we’re a long way from seeing that right now. I would love to
see one true champion, but right now you look at the top lightweight fighters
in the world, Gomi is elsewhere, Nick (Diaz) is elsewhere, I’m elsewhere, and
the UFC has a couple of real good guys that are there. Things are spread out
right now, so it’s hard to see that, but it’s something I definitely want to see
in the future. I still think we’re a long ways from it.


WAMMA has a few
promotions that are already onboard and some that are close to getting on like
Dream and EliteXC. The Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Sylvia fight is supposed to be
the first in which they issue a title and recognize a heavyweight champion
amongst those participating organizations.


GM – We’ll see. That’s great to hear and
gets me excited, but at the end of the day I have to see it to believe it.


Before I let you go,
any sponsors you want to mention, websites, or anything to say to your fans?


GM –
Yeah, I just want
to say what’s up to everyone in Santa Ana, San Francisco, California, thanks
for all the support. I really want to thank
Fairtex for everything and my boys Jake
Shields, Nick and Nate Diaz. But Jake Shields is my man. He’s been helping me
for everything. Anyone who has helped me train for this fight, I appreciate


You can
visit Gilbert Melendez on Myspace