After coming up short in his bid to dethrone reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson at UFC on Fox 7 a few weeks ago, Gilbert Melendez is ready to climb back into the Octagon and work his way back up the ladder.
And "El Nino" is willing to take on all comers to get another shot at mixed martial arts (MMA) gold -- sooner rather than later -- even if he has to follow in the Featherweight footsteps of former 155-pound No. 1 contender, Anthony Pettis.
Melendez recently informed "Knockout Radio" that he doesn't care who he has to get through to get another crack at a title; however, the former Strikeforce lightweight champion doesn't feel that rematches are in his best short- and long-term championship interests.
"There's a lot of good guys. Whoever is hot right now. Whoever is the hot dude who is closest to getting that title shot, I'll take it. If it's ‘Cowboy' Cerrone, if it's the loser between (Jose) Aldo and Anthony Pettis, if it's Pat Healy, if it's Joe Lauzon, Diego Sanchez, who is it? You let me know who will get me quicker to the top, but it would be a good matchup with all these guys. All these people are new faces for me. I just don't want to fight Josh Thomson or Jorge Masvidal. I'm sure he wants to fight someone else, too, and so does Jorge. Those guys are going to prove that they're legit."
In short, Melendez doesn't want do-overs -- he wants fresh blood.
That shouldn't be a problem for UFC matchmakers seeing as how there a deep pool of talent from which to fish in the crowded 155-pound division. Featherweight, however, is a different story, which is the reason Pettis recently forfeited his top Lightweight contender status to challenge 145-pound division kingpin, Jose Aldo.
Indeed, Melendez would likely have to see how UFC 162, which features pivotal divisional showdowns between Ricardo Lamas vs. Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Siver, before considering a 10-pound cut. After all, his loss to "Smooth" was close and -- to some -- controversial, meaning that he might not have to do too much to warrant another opportunity.
Time will tell.
Meanwhile, Donald Cerrone is currently booked to face K.J. Noons at UFC 160 this Memorial Day weekend and "Showtime" has his hands full against "Scarface" at UFC 163. Sanchez and Lauzon, however, are currently without opponents, making either one of them is a fine high-profile option.
Remember, too, that Pat Healy -- who made a splash in his return to the Octagon by upsetting Jim Miller at UFC 159 -- is a possibility, especially because the pair were scheduled to collide under the Strikeforce banner on two separate occasions before the San Jose, Calif.,-based promotion was shutdown earlier this year.
It's good to have options. And Melendez, as well as UFC matchmakers, seem to have several solid possibilities.