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Gilbert Melendez Makes His Case for a ‘Champion vs. Champion’ Fight Against Benson Henderson


(Melendez slugs Shinya Aoki in the head, back when slugging Shinya Aoki in the head actually meant something. / Photo via Esther Lin)

Though he’s still recovering from the nagging shoulder injury that pulled him off of Strikeforce’s possibly-final event (and led to the straight-up cancellation of their previous card) Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez knows exactly what he wants to do when he’s healthy again — roll the dice against UFC champ Ben Henderson. The Cesar Gracie product, who just saw his homeboy Nate Diaz get run over by Bendo last weekend, pleaded his case in a new interview with BleacherReport, running down all the reasons why he should get the next crack at Henderson:

I think a champion versus champion fight makes absolute sense right now. I think we already know how things are going to work out between Benson Henderson and a lot of other lightweight fighters in the UFC, but I’m that mystery fighter. No one really knows how I’m going to matchup with anyone. I have been around for a long time and have been the top lightweight in the world before Benson or any of these other guys.

I think I have a lot of answers for his style. Sometimes he fights a wrestler like Guida who doesn’t have great hands, and sometimes he fights strikers who can’t really wrestle. Look at his fights against “Cowboy” Cerrone back in the day, or even Pettis. I have that wrestling pedigree where he ain’t taking me down, and I’ll be stuffing some shots. I’m not backing away, and I’ll be dropping some bombs. I’m not an easy guy to stand with. I have a lot of power, and I’m not running away from kicks. I don’t run away from anything. I hold my ground. I’ll be coming for him, and anything he dishes out I’ll be answering back twice as hard.”

Later in the interview, Melendez discussed how the reports of Strikeforce’s impending demise — and the coronation of Ronda Rousey as the UFC’s first women’s champion — actually got him excited about the future again, since Melendez could finally get the opportunity to fight some of the best lightweights in the world:

The fire has been lit, and it was lit a few weeks back. When you start feeling the vibes and hearing the word get out about the things happening with Ronda Rousey, you start getting excited. I’m not saying anything is done in that regard, but it doesn’t stop me from getting fired up about the possibility. You get excited you are going to face big names and the possibility of big matchups. It will give me the chance to really prove something to people in this sport. That fire has definitely been lit, and it would be a real bummer if things didn’t work out like I hope they do.

These things play a lot on your motivation, and if everything works out, then it will be great…I’m seeing the difference in everything I do. I’m running harder because I know it’s there. It’s true I wasn’t super motivated for my past few fights, and it showed out there in the cage. I wasn’t happy with my performance, but I was happy I got the ‘W.’ When things are handled a certain way, you get a certain performance. When the opportunity is right—you’ll get the best I have to give

I should be medically cleared in the middle of next week. After I see the doctor, that should give me that five- to six-week marker. I have been doing a lot of drilling, technique and running. You can’t help but get out there and do things. I’ve been staying busy, working on a lot of my strategy and tactics. I’ll pick it up a lot more once I get cleared. But you could definitely say I’m prepped.

The timing is right for this fight. I’ll be healthy by the time he would be ready to go, and it just makes sense. That is the fight I want. I really want to test myself, and I really want to find out if I’m the best. If Henderson really wants to find out, this is the fight for him to really prove he is the No. 1 lightweight fighter in the world. I say let’s do it.”

Well, are you convinced? It seems likely that Anthony Pettis — who previously humiliated Henderson in December 2010 — would be the front-runner for Bendo’s next challenger if Pettis can defeat Donald Cerrone in January. But a UFC vs. Strikeforce unification bout could be just as interesting. Should Melendez get an immediate title shot in the UFC, or should he have to prove himself first by beating another contender?

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dipsetkilla316- December 15, 2012 at 11:19 am
Ben would shit on this curly haired ugly fuck face, he was prob happy wen nate lost couse he didnt have to drop to 145 wen he got to the.
oujgfofhjh- December 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm
Wonderful.
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Alan K- December 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm
These types of fights make no sense since the majority of the UFC's fans have no clue who Gilbert Melendez is. They're trying to build Bendo into a draw and a fight with Gil, as good as it might be, will not get more people to order the fight. Not unless UFC puts a lot of money into promoting it. Give Gil a starter fight to establish his name in the UFC (and it hopefully creates something to add to the highlight reel and gets people talking) and then maybe you can consider giving him a title shot. Remember, he could enter the UFC and immediately get his ass kicked and that benefits no one.
CWill859- December 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm
Makes sense to me. Make that shit happen, Dana.
mma4ever- December 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm
Gil wont only shit the bed ..he'll roll around in it get up for a piss then crawl back in cause his shoulder hurts.
cman- December 14, 2012 at 10:41 am
This sounds like 'no really, the 209 and Caesar Gracie isn't a school of bridesmaids' to me. Melendez has looked eh at best fighting washouts and Japan promotion hype. Actually that was most of strike force and minus the occasional tune up fight or fight 5 years late, SF fighters have shown they really were the bush league.
2DaDeath- December 14, 2012 at 10:12 am
Give him Cerrone first. Or a rematch with Guida.
Fried Taco- December 14, 2012 at 9:19 am
Bendo is too fast for good ol' Gil.
knucklesamitch- December 14, 2012 at 9:08 am
It just seems to me that if UFC purchases a promotion, that title unifications should be something they WANT. They did it with Hendo, but that's it. It wasn't really possible with Cruz, Aldo, or Rousey, but Melendez and Cormier should come into the UFC to immediate title shots. If Zuffa owns the title of a fighter coming into the UFC, that Champion should get a title shot just based on being a Champion. It just seems to me that marketing "Title unification" seems like an easy way to make $$$.
The12ozCurls- December 14, 2012 at 8:13 am
As we have seen in the past, fighters that have dominated in other organizations show up in the UFC and shit the bed. Be it "Octagon Jitters" or the fact that they have been beating down sub-par opposition in the minor leagues. NO - Melendez does not deserve an immediate title shot and IF he does get one, Bendo will put a "Welcome to the UFC" beating on him.
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