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UFC 181: Gilbert Melendez says Anthony Pettis is good, but he's no Jon Jones

Maybe winning four fights in a year will get him there.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In the lead up to tonight's (Sat., Dec. 6, 2014) lightweight title fight between division champion Anthony Pettis and No. 1 contender, Gilbert Melendez, there hasn't been much trash talk between the two scrappy 155 pounders.

Both men have kept it classy and professional, as they recognize one another's skills and respect what each has done in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) thus far. Melendez, though, wants to make it clear that he has been in the fight game longer than Pettis and been involved in more title fights, too.

And while Pettis is the true champion, he didn't have to tread the murky waters -- or "bullshit" -- that Melendez did to get to the top. Still, "El Nino" isn't taking any credit away from "Showtime," as his fighting style not only earned him the gold, but also numerous lucrative sponsorship deals (like this one):

But during his conversation with FOX Sports, Gilbert was cautious of giving Pettis too much credit.

"I think he's a true champion. I just also think part of being a champion is the road. The battles you go through and overcoming adversity. I've been through so much. I went through so many wars before fighting for a title. Sometimes people show a little bit of flash and they get that shot early. I think I could have been the champ since 2006 or 2007. Part of it is just going through the ringer and the fire and the hell to get that shot. Pettis has been fortunate enough to skip a lot of the bullshit that we've gone through to get that shot. He kind of got that shot easy. I'm not trying to take too much credit from him. He's a real champ but he's a beatable champ. I don't think he's the Jon Jones of our weight class."

Pettis knows he has a long way to go before he can reach the status "Bones" currently enjoys. And he's willing to put in the work, as "Showtime" plans on getting there by fighting and winning more often, as much as four times in a year.

But first, he must get through his first-ever title defense again "El Nino" later tonight in "Sin City." It will be easier said than done, as Melendez says Pettis will be in for a long night once he realizes he didn't live up to his prediction of finishing him in the very first round.

Also, Gilbert plans on making the most of what could possibly be his last title fight.

"It's huge. This is probably my last shot at gold. If not, it's probably going to be a couple of years before I earn that shot again. I recognize the opportunity and it could be my last shot at it. There is a little bit of pressure about it, but now I feel at ease. The pressure was getting to me a little bit, but now I've let it all go."

A win, however, will secure "El Nino" at the very least, one more championship bout.

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