Gilbert Melendez: Trying to Avoid Injuries in Training Adversely Affects Fight Night Performance



Gilbert Melendez knew it was bad from the moment his shoulder hit the ground. Just how bad wouldn’t be completely clear until Sunday evening, when Strikeforce announced that it had canceled this Saturday’s Strikeforce “Melendez vs. Healy” card.

“I was training with Jake Shields -- it was a good battle, and it’s one of those things where I didn’t want to give up a takedown, and he wanted to get it pretty bad,” Melendez said during a Monday interview on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “We just had a lot of impact on my shoulder. I believe I tore an AC band and possibly tore another. I have to talk to the doctor to see exactly what’s up, but when you see your shoulder popping out and swelling, you freak out a little bit.”

The injury occurred last Tuesday, and by Friday, Melendez and his team knew that he would not be able to defend his Strikeforce lightweight title against Pat Healy at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento, Calif.

“I’d say a couple F-bombs came out of my mouth for the first minute, and then stuff started setting in. You just realize you trained seven or eight weeks for maybe nothing,” Melendez said. “We [took] the precautions we needed to immediately but came to the conclusion that I basically can’t lift my arm and throw a punch. It’s not gonna happen unless Pat wants to tie his arms behind his back and go at it.”

As a result, Showtime informed Strikeforce officials that the premium network would not televise the card without its main event bout. Late Sunday evening, the promotion announced that it had canceled the entire event, citing the lack of a television partner as the reason for its decision. The remaining fighters on the card are expected to have their bouts rescheduled as soon as possible.

It was just the latest in a long list of injury woes for Zuffa, as Strikeforce “Melendez vs. Healy” joined UFC 151 as the second event of the month to be scrapped due to an injury at the top of the card. It was also the second major blow dealt to a Strikeforce headliner: UFC heavyweight Frank Mir withdrew from a Nov. 3 clash with Daniel Cormier after suffering a knee injury last week. Throw in the main card reshuffling that became necessary after Jose Aldo and Quinton Jackson pulled out of UFC 153, and it seems as though the injury bug is more than just a summer trend.

Given the demanding nature of a fight camp, Melendez sees no easy way around the issue. Fighters who lighten their training burden will be doing so at their own risk, he said.

“I’m trying to just get ready for the fight and be prepared as possible [in camp]. You just hope to stay injury free,” Melendez said. “It’s hard to put that on the fighters: the responsibility of not getting injured. You can’t just spar light and go out there and perform like crap. It’s a tough thing to do to tell them to take it easy. You guys want to see people excel and perform, but then you want them to take it easy in training. It’s kind of a Catch-22. I think I did everything I could to get ready for this fight. Did I do everything I could to make sure I wasn’t injured? Probably not, but you can’t have that mentality in your training camp.

“When you’re at 100 percent, your body is alert and it’s ready to go,” he added. “You start holding back and you’re at 80 percent, and you’re trying to be conservative... I think you do get injured easily that way.”

At the moment, Melendez doesn’t have an exact timetable for his return. Ideally, “El Nino” would like to avoid surgery and resume hard training in five or six weeks. When he is completely healthy, Melendez hopes to revisit the possibility of a showdown with Healy.

“I was pumped up to fight Pat Healy,” he said. “He was new blood, and I like his style of fighting. I think it made for an exciting fight; I was definitely looking forward to it. I was feeling a lot like the old Gilbert in training camp. My mindset was really clear and good -- I felt like I was unstoppable again.”

Though the news of the canceled event is disappointing to fans and fighters alike, Melendez says he has received plenty of support since his injury was revealed.

“I’ve got some really good fans. Everyone seems like they’re really concerned with my health and wanting me to recover, come back and fight strong. I think people understand these things happen, and I think everyone knows it’s not my fault,” Melendez said.

However, the Skrap Pack leader doesn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with the decision-making of Showtime officials.

“They have their formula to plug in to make it worth their while,” he said. “Obviously it seemed like it wasn’t worth their while. If it was up to me, I would hope they would put the card on. I was hoping to go to Sacramento and watch it anyway.”

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