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Gilbert Melendez’s battered leg still preventing awaited UFC return

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Barboza vs Melendez Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez has fallen on hard times in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. Since making his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut back in 2013, “El Nino” has produced a lackluster record of 1-5, defeating only Diego Sanchez via decision at UFC 166 (albeit a Fight of the Night performance).

While Melendez has been facing straight savages at both lightweight and featherweight, these aren’t the results that he was hoping for. With a lot of ground to make up, the 36-year-old is hoping to get back into action and prove that he stills belongs at the top of the heap.

The only issue is that Melendez is still having problems with his leg after his most recent defeat to Jeremy Stephens this past September at UFC 215. Stephens battered his leg en route to a unanimous decision win and Melendez’s fourth-straight loss. Having fought Brazilian striker Edson Barboza the fight before and sustaining similar damage, Melendez hasn’t had much time to heal up his leg.

“That’s the only thing holding me back right now from jumping in,” Melendez told MMAjunkie Radio earlier this week. “I feel like I haven’t taken too many beatings, but my leg has taken a lot of beatings.”

After failing a post-fight drug test following his UFC 188 loss to Eddie Alvarez, Melendez had to take one year off. But even though “El Nino” got that year to rest and has only fought twice since then, the tested veteran welcomes more time to heal up before he makes one last run at UFC gold.

“I wouldn’t mind healing up my body a little bit,” he said. “There’s money to be made, and I do want to go out there and give myself at least one more chance to give it my all and try to bounce back from this slump.”

Once healthy enough to return, Melendez really doesn’t care who his next opponent is. He simply wants to fight someone who is going to stand and deliver in the pocket.

If Melendez can win such a battle he’s ready to keep things moving. But if he loses again and drops to 1-6 in UFC then the former Strikeforce king may want to hang it up.

“This is the most important fight right now for me,” he said. “I need to win, or it’s time for me to really sit back. If I win, I keep going. If I lose, I’m going sit back and regroup and see what’s next.”

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