One of the best Lightweight fighters in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) today, Gilbert Melendez, has long desired to get his chance to enter the world-famous Octagon and test his skills against the best of the best in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ranks to prove that he is deserving of being called the best 155-pound fighter in the world.
Rumors ran rampant last year that "El Nino" was set to take his talents to the eight-walled cage, but were quickly shot down as he was matched up with Jorge Masvidal at Strikeforce: "Melendez vs. Masvidal" on Dec. 17, 2011.
Gilbert's training partners, Jake Shields and Nick Diaz, made the jump from Strikeforce to the UFC in 2010 and 2011, respectively, but he was left to hold the fort down with the San Jose based promotion as its poster boy Lightweight champion. Though a move over the world's largest MMA promotion to join his Cesar Gracie trained companions isn't in his near future, he would settle for Zuffa to send down some of the best Lightweights currently in the UFC to challenge him for his Strikforce throne.
Those pleas, unfortunately, have fallen on deaf ears and everyone, for the time being, is staying put with their respective organizations.
Now, Melendez will take on Josh Thomson for the third time after the two split their first two previous meetings under the Strikeforce banner. Though he isn't too thrilled about a third meeting with "The Punk," he says he will look to make a statement.
Make the jump to see what he told Middle Easy:
"Dude, probably the females (will be in the UFC first) the way things are looking right now. That's not even nice. I was hoping for something big. I was hoping I would get a higher profile person from the UFC, something to help my stock go up. But you know what, I'm going to try and make a statement with Thomson and I am going to show him there is a big difference between the guy he fought in 2006, 2009 and now 2012. I really want to display my skills so I am going to get pumped for this."
When asked what it would take to get Zuffa to bend a little bit and send him some 155-pound sharks from the UFC his way, "El Nino" says he is trying, but he doesn't see the same eagerness from those Lightweights:
"You're asking the wrong guy bro, you know what I mean? I want to make it happen, I'm asking for it, I don't hear them really asking for me. I don't know, it's tough; it's a tough situation for everybody."
Currently riding a six-fight win streak with his last loss coming at the hands of his next opponent, Melendez definitely has made a case for his status as one of the elite Lightweights in the world. But will never having competed inside the Octagon hinder his climb up the ladder?
Maybe, just maybe, a decisive win over Thomson on May 19, 2012, at Strikeforce: "Barnett vs Cormier" will get him closer to finally making his Octagon debut. Though the chances will still be very slim, one can always hope.
Anyone think Melendez will ever make his way to the UFC and put his skills on full display against the likes of Frankie Edgar, Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis? Or is he destined to stay with Strikeforce for as long as the organization clings to life?