October 10, 2010

Gilbert Melendez Shinya AokiGilbert Melendez has been on “Daddy Daycare Duty” as of late, but all signs point to him returning to competition in short order… it’s just a matter of settling upon who and where.

Speculation has centered on the Strikeforce lightweight champion making the trip to Japan to face Dream champion Shinya Aoki on New Year’s Eve. Far from cementing a rematch between the two titleholders, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker did say that bout is a likely scenario.

“That is not confirmed, but it is something that (Dream has) said that they would like to have happen if possible, so we’re having that dialogue,” he said at Saturday night’s post-fight press conference in San Jose, Calif.

Melendez battered Aoki en route to a five-round unanimous decision victory in April of this year, successfully defending his Strikeforce belt, although the Dream belt was not on the line.

It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he would reciprocate and face the Dream champion on his home turf, but it was bantered about even before their first fight.

The other scenario that is likely to play out if Melendez and Aoki aren’t matched up on New Year’s Eve is a rubber match between Melendez and good friend Josh Thomson.

The two first met in 2008, when Thomson took the Strikeforce belt from Melendez’s waist, handing him only the second blemish on an otherwise spotless record. Melendez worked his way back into contention, taking his belt back from Thomson three fights later, in late 2009, and hasn’t looked back.

“It’s a little slower when you work with a Japanese fight company,” admitted Coker. “But once we know whether Gilbert is gonna be free or if he’s gonna fight on New Year’s Eve in Japan then we’ll make some decisions right away.”