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Get ready for war: Strikeforce 'Evolution' interview exclusive with Gilbert Melendez


Gilbert Melendez has been waiting a long time for revenge.

It's been roughly a year and a half since he lost his Strikeforce lightweight championship belt after being defeated by Josh Thomson via unanimous decision.

At "Evolution" from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, this Saturday (Dec. 19) he will have the opportunity to erase the past and make that disappointing night a distant memory.

Thomson has been marred by injury since he last fought in September 2008. As a result, an interim lightweight belt was created and won by Melendez after he registered a TKO victory over Rodrigo Damm in April 2009.

He followed it up with a TKO victory over Mitsuhiro Ishida in his first interim title defense just four months later.

Now it's time for "El Nino" and "The Punk" to go to war once again in order to unify the lightweight belts.

The winner is likely in line for another belt unification. The consensus #2 ranked lightweight in the world and current DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki is waiting in the wings.

Melendez took some time out of his busy fight week schedule to discuss Thomson, his contract status, Aoki, fighting on CBS and UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn.

Check it out:

Derek Bolender ( Are you officially sick of fighting interim title fights and basically having nothing to gain and everything to lose?

Gilbert Melendez: I'm a positive guy. I'm happy. It's about time it's a real fight. I take it as is man. If I'm fighting for the interim belt I'm fighting five rounds. Being prepared for five rounds is what I need to do to prepare for Josh Thomson. That's the other good that has been coming out of the interim title stuff. I feel like it has blessed me in that way only.

Derek Bolender ( What is your weight at right now? Do you ever have any trouble getting down to 155 pounds?

Gilbert Melendez: I just got off the scale. I am about 9 ½ pounds over right now. I just started cutting all the water out. I was drinking some water. I'm not even half over. By the time I start cutting weight, which will be around 11:30 pm or midnight I should be around 8 ½ over. Then from there I'll cut that last 8 ½ pounds and probably stop at 6 ½ or 7 and then maybe do a little bit in the sauna if necessary. I'll probably try to get on weight to about 2 pounds over. I'll maybe do some more tomorrow in the day time or maybe just stay on weight depending on how it is. It's not a big deal. I'm used to the routine.

Derek Bolender ( Against Mitsuhiro Ishida you looked like a new Gilbert. You were being much more patient than we have seen you in the past. Have you made a conscious effort to be more patient in fights or in your training or is that simply just how that particular fight played out?

Gilbert Melendez: That particular fight I was more patient. Yes, I'm trying to be a more patient, intelligent fighter. I know there are a lot of game plans involved in fighting right now. I'm used to being old school. Me and (Tatsuya) Kawajiri just stepped in the middle and started duking it out and seeing whose balls were bigger and who could last longer and fight harder. It was technical, but still going for it. Now guys are circling, jabbing, and moving and trying to win rounds. I have to evolve as a fighter. I'm trying to maintain being an aggressive beast and still being smart. For that situation it was to be patient. Every situation I do want to be patient and smart but sometimes I might be more aggressive than that. I want to be an intelligent fighter.

Derek Bolender ( Of course, you're going to face Josh Thomson for the second time on December 19. It was not announced until just a couple weeks ago because of Thomson's latest injury situation. Were any other opponents proposed to you for this event if he wasn't going to be able to fight?

Gilbert Melendez: Yeah, definitely. The first thing I heard was that I wasn't going to fight Josh. They said I'd being fighting in December but for sure not against Josh. Next thing you know I'm fighting Josh. I think he got thrown the same curve ball too. He wasn't sure who he was fighting or when. Now it's going down. Originally, I think they mentioned Shaolin (Vitor Ribeiro). That was someone on the list they were thinking of. I think he might have turned the fight down. That was the other one I think.

Derek Bolender ( Do you think Thomson is going to experience some ring rust having not fought since September 2008?

Gilbert Melendez: I'm not banking on it. I'm not counting on it. I'm not counting on his injury either. I'm a fighter and I've seen Josh. He trains hard. He trains good and he's mentally tough. He's a strong guy. I would never bank on it or think about it. If there are signs of ring rust showing or signs of his injury showing I'll jump on that crap. I'll try to take advantage of it and capitalize on it. I'm just expecting Josh to be 100%. He and I did a conference call interview and he said he's 100% so that's what I'm counting on.

Derek Bolender ( Would you like to make an official prediction for the fight?

Gilbert Melendez: I would like to predict a war. The title of the show is "Evolution" and I think everyone is going to see an evolution right before their eyes. Josh and I are brand new fighters. Some guys are just really strong at stand-up, really strong at wrestling, and I think we're well-rounded MMA fighters. We are complete MMA fighters. We're going to show some skill and talent out there. I do think my heart is a little bigger than his. Hopefully my heart can take over and I can grind this one out. Hopefully I take this fight by war.  

Derek Bolender ( Would you like to fight Shinya Aoki and unify the Strikeforce and DREAM lightweight belts if you are able to get past Thomson?

Gilbert Melendez: That sounds like music to my ears. I think I match-up perfectly with that guy. I think I can fight him well. I would love that fight. I would love nothing more than to have that fight.

Derek Bolender ( Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have you, Jake Shields, and Nick Diaz all hold belts at the same time in Strikeforce?

Gilbert Melendez: We have thought about that a lot of times. We always B.S. about that. It would be awesome and amazing. I would love to make that come true.

Derek Bolender ( Strikeforce just announced they are going to have another CBS event in April 2010. Can I pencil you in for your first title defense that night?

Gilbert Melendez: I would love to be apart of that show. I would like to get that CBS exposure. I think I've paid my dues for Strikeforce and been on Showtime quite a bit. I think I would put on a great show for them and it would be good for the sport and good for the organization. I will try to jump on that card most definitely.

Derek Bolender ( Your teammate Jake Shields fought on the last CBS card just a few weeks ago and won the middleweight belt vacated by Cung Le. Cung was supposed to be tied up doing movies for the foreseeable future and then he comes back a month later and takes a fight against Scott Smith. Is Cung Le ducking Jake Shields?

Gilbert Melendez: I don't want to say it, but how do you relinquish your title and then a month later give someone else a fight? His first fight back should actually be Jake. That just makes sense. I don't know. You just can't give up your belt. I guess he can do whatever he wants. Cung is an amazing fighter but I think it shows that he doesn't want to fight Jake. I think Jake would have fought him on this card on December 19 after his fight in November, no problem.

Derek Bolender ( If you won't say it I will say it for you. He is blatantly ducking Shields.

Gilbert Melendez: (laughs) You know what I mean. I'll tell you what. I believe he doesn't want to fight Jake.

Derek Bolender ( How many fights left on your current contract?

Gilbert Melendez: I have two fights left. After this fight coming up I'll have one fight left on my contract. I'd love to stay here. I'm very happy with Strikeforce. I'm very happy with the way they have treated me. I'm proud to be a part of the organization. I've been apart of this organization since 2005 I believe. I've been a part of it forever. I can see myself going forever with them.

Derek Bolender ( Is the UFC still a potential option? When your contract is up will that be something you would at least consider?

Gilbert Melendez: Definitely, I would consider that. The UFC is the Super Bowl of MMA now. Sometimes you're not recognized as an MMA fighter unless you fight in the UFC to the common fan. Coming from Japan to the U.S. I came to get as an MMA fighter. Fighting in PRIDE didn't give me enough recognition. Now I'm fighting Showtime, which has given me some recognition, but still. It seems like if you really want to get the props you have to go to the UFC. Hopefully that will eventually change in Strikeforce and they will grow. I still consider the UFC to be awesome. I love the fighters there. I love watching it. I watched B.J. Penn vs. Diego Sanchez. I ordered the fight. I paid for the fight. I'm a fan of the whole sport. I watched The Ultimate Fighter. I'm a fan. It is something I would definitely consider.

Derek Bolender ( What did you think of B.J. Penn's performance against Diego Sanchez this past weekend at UFC 107? Is he just on another level right now?

Gilbert Melendez: I think so. I think he is on another level. I think he's well-rounded. He's more than well-rounded though, he's greatly rounded. He can do it all on his feet. He can do it all with his wrestling and jiu-jitsu. B.J. is kryptonite for everybody. Honestly, I think Josh and I are some of the tougher fighters along with some of the guys in DREAM. I think we could give B.J. a better run for his money than those guys are doing in the UFC.

Derek Bolender ( Would you like to pass along a message to your fans out there or thank any sponsors at this time?

Gilbert Melendez: I would like to first of all thank for doing an interview with me. I appreciate you guys. I want to thank Dethrone Royalty. I want to thank Metal Militia, Rockstar, Tapout Nutrition, Full Tilt Poker, and EA Sports. All these sponsors I've built a relationship with them. They just don't pay me money and that's that. I've got a relationship with them and I just want to make that clear. I want to thank them for that. Also, all my training partners and everyone that is supporting me, the fans especially.

Derek Bolender is a contributor to in addition to,, and Follow him at and

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