Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez ‘down’ for a fourth fight against longtime rival, Josh Thomson

May 19, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Gilbert Melendez (left) fights Josh Thomson (right) during the lightweight bout of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz ...Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson?

Many times in sports, athletes are attached to one another through their classic rivalries or memorable match-ups. Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez can't seem to go anywhere or be interviewed without Josh Thomson, whom he has already faced three times, being brought up in conversation.

"El Nino" first collided with "The Punk" back in 2008, losing his Strikeforce 155-pound title via unanimous decision. Melendez went on to avenge his loss as he defeated Thomson a year later in another back-and-forth affair that went the distance.

This time, the judges favored Gilbert, awarding him the unanimous decision.

This past May, three years after their second fight, the two met yet again. This go-round, however, the fight proved to be much closer, as the scrappy lightweights dazzled once more, going the distance again in a thriller that could have gone either way.

In the end, Gilbert earned the win via split decision, though many felt Thomson should have received the victory and the title.

Nevertheless, "El Nino" retained his strap and will now defend it against Pat Healy on Sept. 29, 2012 in Sacramento, California. Speaking at yesterday's (Sept. 18, 2012) Strikeforce press conference, ahead of his main event fight against "Bam Bam," Melendez couldn't elude the question of a potential fourth bout against Thomson.

Check out his reply, after the jump:

"I'm definitely down for it. I'd be up for it. I'm not looking forward to it right away, but I'm definitely not scared of it. I don't think it was my best performance. I think Thomson's a tough guy, I think we know each other well. It was a close fight and San Jose's his town, and they were 0-for-3 that night until Cormier came in. It's a little hard because I usually don't get booed and I put my life on the line out there. It kind of hurt, but it is what it is. I'm just moving forward, If I have to fight him again, if he keeps winning, it is what it is."

Melendez then turned his attention to his present opponent, Pat Healy, and says that at times, things tend to get ‘stale' and he has to look for new motivation.

Healy provides just that:

"Sometimes things get stale and you hit a plateau for a minute and you gotta kind of re-evaluate everything. You really use your brain and figure out how to evolve as a fighter and how to improve as a fighter and point out your weaknesses. I found my motivation, I'm a student of the sport. I just want to learn and continue to learn and grow and get better as a mixed martial artist. I'm blessed with a really good job. I want to keep going and test myself against new blood and new opponents. Fighting someone like Pat is a guy I look forward to fighting. He likes to come forward, he likes to fight, he's a little old school and I'm old school, and that motivates me."

With Strikeforce not bringing in new talent for fatten up its 155-pound roster and Melendez seemingly not making the jump over to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ranks anytime soon, a fourth contest between Thomson and Gilbert is not too far-fetched.

Gilbert is down, if he gets past "Bam-Bam," of course, and we can assume, given the results of their last bout, Josh would be game, as well.

Question is, do the fans want to see it?

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