Melendez vs. Aoki Not A Done Deal, Strikeforce Champ May Not Return Until 2011

November 5, 2010

Gilbert Melendez and Shinya Aoki

Gilbert Melendez and Shinya Aoki

Gilbert Melendez has been asking for a fight with Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez, but just about everybody has assumed his next bout would come in Japan on New Year’s Eve against Shinya Aoki.

Not so fast.

While the fight seemed to be a foregone conclusion, Melendez vs. Aoki is not a lock according to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker.

“That’s not definitely going to happen, we’ll probably know in the next week or so,” Coker revealed on MMAWeekly Radio. “I’m not sure if that fight will happen. If not, we’ll get Gilbert back fighting in the Strikeforce cage.”

Melendez worked Aoki over for five rounds when the two lightweights met back in April, but the Japanese submission specialist was hoping for a second shot at the Cesar Gracie fighter in his homeland to close out 2010.

A big question raised about why Melendez may not travel to Japan to fight has been multiple reports surfacing about Dream not paying fighters. Current Strikeforce lightweight Gesias “J.Z.” Cavalcante has stated numerous times that following his July fight in Dream, the promotion has yet to pay him for his services.

Strikeforce and Dream have had an official fighter exchange over the last year, but each promotion is responsible for the fighter’s pay when he is competing for its promotion. To his knowledge, Coker says the fighters they’ve sent to Dream in the past haven’t had problems getting paid, but that doesn’t mean it’s a situation they’re not keeping a close watch on.

“It’s always concerning when you hear something like that, but I can only judge when we send our fighters over there, as to whether they get paid or not,” said Coker. “We sent K.J. (Noons) over there at the beginning of the year and he got paid in two weeks. When we sent Nick (Diaz), I think he got paid within a couple months. So they have been paying the athletes we have sent over, but I’ve been hearing a lot of the nightmares that you’re talking about.

“It’s something that we’ll be monitoring as we continue the fighter sharing.”

If the proposed fight between Melendez and Aoki is scrapped, the Strikeforce lightweight champion would likely sit out until the beginning of 2011 waiting for a fight. At that point a third fight against Josh Thomson may be the most likely scenario, but the Strikeforce CEO points out that there are several other options coming up for Melendez later in 2011.

“We have Jorge Masvidal, give him another fight or two then let him fight Gilbert after that. I think Josh (Thomson) and Gilbert would be another amazing match, and then I know (Dream) wants Aoki to come fight him again at one point. To me I think even (Tatsuya) Kawajiri and Melendez would be a great fight to watch,” Coker stated.

Melendez has been back in training after taking some time off to welcome his new baby, but the California leader of the Scrap Pack is now starting to get anxious for a fight. When, where and who it will be against remains to be seen.