Coming off a unanimous decision victory over Jorge Masvidal last night (Dec.17, 2011) in San Diego, Calif., where he defended his Strikeforce lightweight title, Gilbert Melendez has now won six straight fights dating back to 2009.
Even though his most recent performance opposite "GameBred" proved to be tougher than Melendez may have wanted, "El Nino" not only climbed the ranks of the mixed martial arts (MMA) lightweight division, but also staked his claim as the new face of the Strikeforce promotion.
With Nick Diaz, Cung Le and Dan Henderson now fighting for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Melendez now carries the San Jose-based promotion squarely on his shoulders for the foreseeable future.
At the moment there are no shortages of opponents for him under the Strikeforce banner with Caros Fodor and K.J. Noons earning impressive wins at last night's Strikeforce event, and in the process, tossing their names in the hat as possible next challengers for "El Nino's" title. Not to mention Gesias Cavalcante, another Strikeforce contender who could prove to be a tough test for Melendez.
However, that hasn't stopped the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter from talking about the rest of the top lightweight talent that reside over in the UFC.
Speaking to Fighting Famous TV, "El Nino" say's that he would smash challengers from the UFC and also says he loves Japan because the Japanese people really know who the true number one lightweight in the world really is.
Check it out:
"I don't feel like I shouldn't be in this position, I'm not crying about my position but I think I've done more than Ben Henderson. You know, these guys, all these guys were on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) show you know? Like I was already fighting in PRIDE and ranked top three in the world but some people just don't understand that. I'm not trying to be a cry baby again, but I just know my history and I've been there. I've already hit these bumps in the road and come back. Some of these guys haven't hit that bump in the road where they have to reinvent themselves and I've already hit that and they're still going to hit that. I think Ben Henderson is someone who is going to be amazing, I think he is amazing and I actually think he is going to continue to be amazing and he is going to be a great champ. As for Pettis, I would welcome that challenge. I would like to fight that dude, bring him over I think I can smash him."
When asked about his upcoming trip to the "Land of the Rising Sun" to corner his training partner Jake Shields for his upcoming fight against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144 on Feb. 26, 2012 -- who just so happens to be headlined by two of the UFC's premiere lightweights, division champion Frankie Edgar and number one contender Ben Henderson -- "El Nino" says he loves Japan because fans there know who the true number one lightweight in the world really is in MMA today.
"I'm going to try to pump up MMA out there too. I think I'm a big deal in Japan for MMA. They think I'm the number one lightweight in the world out there, they definitely think I'm the number one lightweight in the world. Maybe it's different in the US, but they definitely think I'm the number one lightweight in the world."
Back to back victories over some of Japan's best lightweights in Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri may be the primary reason Melendez believes the Japanese people would consider him the greatest 155-pound fighter in the world.
Not lacking any confidence, Melendez truly feels he is the number one lightweight on the planet and would love nothing more than a chance to prove it it against some of the best the UFC has to offer.
Though a fight with Anthony Pettis or any lightweight on UFC's roster could prove to be entertaining and a good test for Melendez, don't expect any cross promotion fights for "El Nino" anytime soon, even with Zuffa owning both Strikeforce and the UFC. With Strikeforce renewing its contract with Showtime, it could be at least two more years before Melendez ever gets his chance to step up up against the UFC's best lightweights.
What do you say Maniacs, is Melendez the true number one lightweight in the world? Or will he always be second best as long as he carries the Strikeforce belt and not the UFC title?