When the UFC flirted with the notion of signing Gilbert Melendez away from Strikeforce a few months ago the 29-year old lightweight champion winked back, letting the world know he was equally interested in joining their 155-pound ranks. Melendez’s motivation for doing so was in part due to establishing himself as the #1 fighter in his division but also as a means of getting his name out there on a greater scale.
Melendez, who fights Jorge Masvidal tonight on Showtime, spoke recently about the way he feels he is perceived by the general public who aren’t always as informed as they should be when passing judgment.
“I feel like I’ve always got respect from my peers, and I think a lot of the real fans and the journalists have known,” Melendez explained in an interview with Strikeforce’s website when asked about his profile as a top fighter. “I think it’s more of the common fan. The common fans think I’m in the minor leagues because I’m not in the UFC. The common fan thinks I’m no good because I’m not in the UFC. It’s not that I care so much, but it’s important for me to brand myself in the future and have a life outside the cage. I need to be accepted by everybody, so that does feel good, and that’s what I’m going for. I’ve had a lot of entertaining fights and I would like a lot of people to check those out.”
“El Nino” also believes the mainstream’s lack of knowledge regarding his abilities is a common characteristic he and Masvidal share.
“I definitely see an underrated fighter,” said the Californian of his challenger. “He’s a 170-pounder dropping to 155, he’s got some long, straight punches, some really strong knees and kicks, and some tricks. He’s a talented guy and I think he poses some threats, so he’s definitely a great challenge for me. He’s another guy that’s capable of beating a lot of those guys in the UFC, and just because he’s not in the UFC he hasn’t gotten quite the credit he deserves. So I’m pumped about this. He’s a guy who’s even talked a little crap about kicking my butt for a long time now, so I’m kinda pumped about that as well.”
“I just look at what’s ahead of me right now, and I can’t look past that until after this fight. I’ve got a really big task ahead of me, and once I get past that then I can start talking about any new number one contenders…I think Jorge is one of the last tough top guys out there, but who knows, maybe they’ll bring someone in, and I have faith in them for that.”
Fans, common and educated, can catch Melendez vs. Masvidal tonight at 10:30 PM EST with other bouts on the card including Christiane Santos vs. Hiroko Yamanaka, Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux, and Billy Evangelista vs. KJ Noons.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE