Of the 17 fighters who received votes in the Yahoo! Sports mixed martial arts rankings, five are lightweights. Even a casual observer can see it's the sport's best division with the most high-end talent.

High-end talent, though, isn't all that is required for a fighter to become a star.

There's an elusive something else that is hard to quantify but easy to identify.

Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson, who fight Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., for the Strikeforce lightweight belt, know that better than most.

Melendez is seventh in the current Yahoo! Sports poll, ahead of such great fighters as ex-UFC champion Frankie Edgar (eighth), Gray Maynard (13) and ex-Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez (T15).

And that doesn't include men such as Thomson, Nate Diaz, Jim Miller, Bellator champion Michael Chandler and others who received nary a vote.

Melendez's talent and performance haven't gone unnoticed within the industry, but he's yet to take off and reach the same level of stardom as many of his elite brethren.

[Also: UFC president Dana White diagnosed with Ménière's disease, will have surgery]

There was plenty of talk that Melendez would fight ex-UFC champion B.J. Penn before the Strikeforce title fight with Thomson was put together. That bout would have given the charismatic and often acrobatic Melendez a vehicle to become a star, but Penn opted to remain retired.

So, Melendez has had to content himself with a rubber match with Thomson while awaiting the fight that would bring him the widespread recognition his talent indicates he deserves.

"Obviously to be the No. 1 fighter in the world, you have to be the UFC champ," Melendez said. "It's just the way it is. And right now, I'm just trying to put on shows and get better in the sport. It's just to get better and take some risk out there.

"I'm really trying to just become a really good martial artist right now and deliver. But I'm not worried about that no more. I'm just going to keep doing my thing and performing and I'm trying not to look at that any more. I'm just trying to find different motivations, like the paycheck and my team and my family."

Thomson has won three of his last four since a Dec. 19, 2009, loss to Melendez in San Jose that evened the series between them at a fight apiece.

Thomson is coming off a one-sided victory over K.J. Noons in March, but what was most notable was Thomson's reaction to it afterward.

He used his wrestling to control Noons and was never in jeopardy of losing. The victory earned him the shot at the title, but Thomson wasn't pleased with his performance.

"I got the win, but I hate fighting like that [and] it disappoints me that people boo," he said in a Showtime interview afterward. "It's the entertainment business. It's not the way I like to win. Taking him down and getting the win? That should be expected of me. I'm a good wrestler and I have good submissions. … There's no excuse. It was a [expletive] fight."

But they had a good pair of fights against each other previously and seem to be at the peak of their games now.

A win over Melendez would do more for Thomson at this point than vice versa, but neither guy is going to become a breakout star at this stage. It's a matter of stringing together quality fight after quality fight and hoping for a breakthrough.

Melendez has the right attitude, though. You can't become a star by saying you want to do it or even by winning all of your fights. It happens organically. And so Melendez just decided to forget about it and go out and enjoy his job and his life.

"I'm going to be [fighting] for a long time," Melendez said. "I hear [Strikeforce heavyweight] Josh Barnett talking about how he's been fighting for 15 years. If I'm going to do this, I'm going to have fun and not be stressed going out to every practice and just do the best I can do. And, that's what I've been doing, just training my butt off. "The stress is there, but not so bad. It is what it is. I just got to roll with the punches on this."

And some day, hopefully sooner or later, the world will awaken and realize that Gilbert Melendez is a star.

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Johnny Ludden: Lakers' Kobe Bryant fails in crunch time against the Thunder
Tim Brown: Firing hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was desperate move by Angels
Martin Rogers: Champions League trophy won't keep Roberto Di Matteo on the Chelsea bench

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

Former UFC lightweight Josh Thomson expected to join Bellator MMA

  • 21 days ago
  • 12 views

Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson is expected to sign with Bellator MMA after the UFC declined to give him a new contract. Less than two years ago, former Strikefroce LW champion J read news >>

Former Strikeforce lightweight champ Josh Thomson signs with Bellator MMA

  • 20 days ago
  • 5 views

Former Strikeforce lightweight champ and seven-time UFC veteran Josh Thomson is the latest addition to the Bellator MMA roster.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Josh Thomson excited to sign 'fighter-friendly contract' with Bellator MMA

  • 20 days ago
  • 3 views

Former Strikeforce champion and ex-UFC lightweight Josh Thomson has officially signed with Bellator MMA. Check out what he has to say about his new home, which reunites him with Scott Coker. Bellator read news >>

Josh Thomson vs. Mike Bronzoulis added to 'Bellator 142: Dynamite'

  • 15 days ago
  • 0 views

Former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson has been booked for his first post-UFC fight.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Josh Thomson to make Bellator debut at Dynamite September 19

  • 15 days ago
  • 2 views

News on the Bellator debut of former UFC fighter and Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson. Josh Thomson's Bellator debut has been officially announced. The former Strikeforce champion and UFC veteran wi read news >>

How a new division could help find a rival for Rousey (Yahoo Sports)

  • 21 days ago
  • 1 views

From Yahoo Sports: If the UFC were to add a women’s flyweight division, it could develop a fresh threat for Ronda Rousey. read news >>

UFC declines to re-sign Josh Thomson, who is expected to sign with Bellator MMA

  • 21 days ago
  • 11 views

Josh Thomson's latest UFC run has come to end. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the UFC declined to offer Thomson a new contract once his most recent one expired following his lo read news >>

How a new division could help find a rival for Rousey (Yahoo Sports)

  • 21 days ago
  • 14 views

There are enough fighters for the UFC to add a women’s flyweight division, and perhaps develop a fresh threat for Ronda Rousey. read news >>

Progress made on Rousey vs. 'Cyborg' fight, but don%26#x2019;t expect it in 2015 (Yahoo Sports)

  • 21 days ago
  • 3 views

From Yahoo Sports: There’s been a lot of chatter in the past week about a possible megafight, but who’s telling the truth? read news >>

Progress made on Rousey vs. 'Cyborg' fight, but don%26#x2019;t expect it in 2015 (Yahoo Sports)

  • 21 days ago
  • 3 views

From Yahoo Sports: There’s been a lot of chatter in the past week about a possible megafight, but who’s telling the truth? read news >>