After going on a horrid three-fight losing streak in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight division, Gilbert Melendez is making the drop down to Featherweight, as he is currently booked to make his return to action at UFC 215 on September 9, 2017 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, against Jeremy Stephens.
For “El Nino,” the drop down was an easy decision, as he realized that fighting the heavier competition at 155 pounds simply wasn’t working out. And since fighters these days are getting better at cutting weight, his foes at lightweight were only getting bigger and bigger.
“I’m dropping down to 145 because I feel guys are getting better at cutting weight. I think they are doing it healthy and the sport is evolving and there are better techniques to it,” he said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour.
“I used to be a 145 fighter and I was doing just fine at ‘55. Guys just got bigger and stronger and a little bit more tough. I was fighting guys like Benson, I didn’t fight Frankie, but he was at ‘55 before,” added Melendez.
After three straight defeats against Anthony Pettis, Edson Barboza and Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert hopes the drop back down to 145 pounds will be a chance to start fresh.
“I think I am looking to reinvent myself and be a longer fighter there and do something different. These 55’ers are big and I can’t really push forward like I’d like to. I am not scared to, I think at 145 I will be longer and be able to impose my will more. That is my goal there,” he concluded.
As for the fight against Stephens, Melendez is thrilled with it, as he gives “Lil’ Heathen’” the credit for being a man who is willing to meet him in the center of the Octagon and bang it out.
“I own the center of the Octagon and I stand there and bang. Guys who have beaten me have usually outpointed me and not really beat my butt,” said Gilbert. “They stick and move or change game plans, Stephens isn’t one of those guys. He pushes forward and someone who I have been asking for, someone’s who is not a runner, someone who’s a banger that’s actually going to fight. I respect him and I like his style. It’s a good recipe for MMA,” he concluded.
Gilbert also revealed than a knee injury and subsequent surgery — as well as recovery — is what has kept him out of action for over a year.
As for Stephens, he hasn’t had much luck as of late inside the Octagon, either, as he is riding a two-fight losing streak. That means one man will get back on the winning track while the other, unfortunately, will continue his downward spiral.