It has been more than a year since UFC president Dana White first declared that Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez was making the move to the Octagon.
It has been more than a year of sheer torture for Melendez and his Strikeforce counterparts that time and again thought Strikeforce had hit the end of the road and that they were going to get a shot on the biggest stage in all of mixed martial arts.
Now, however, there is finally a definitive conclusion to the Strikeforce, Showtime, UFC soap opera.
Strikeforce will run one more event, on Jan. 12 on Showtime, and that will be that. Strikeforce will then cease to exist, and the UFC will pick up many of the fighters and give them a run at the Octagon.
One of the key players to make that move is Melendez, who still holds the Strikeforce belt, but can’t wait to set foot in the Octagon. And White can’t wait for him and the other fighters on the roster to make the move. It’s one of his greatest regrets about the Strikeforce/Showtime debacle.
“What has happened to the fighters in Strikeforce is horrible,” White told MMAWeekly.com on Thursday in Las Vegas. “The way this thing went down and what’s happened to these guys and these guys have been very patient. I feel sorry for what happened to them and I’m just happy that they’re coming to the UFC now.”
Melendez will be followed by several others, but he is the marquee fighter left under the Strikeforce banner after the UFC had already raided much of the promotion’s other top-tier talent.
His patience, however, could pay off in an immediate title shot.
“He’ll probably come right in and get a title shot,” White said of Melendez’s initial prospects in the Octagon.
White didn’t guarantee the title shot, saying, “again, we’ll see,” but it would only make sense.
Melendez has been at the top of the heap, not only at Strikeforce, but in the world, often flip-flopping around the MMAWeekly.com World MMA Rankings top three positions in the lightweight division.
Slotting Melendez into an immediate title shot would be akin to Dan Henderson putting his Pride belts on the line when the UFC acquired the venerable Japanese fight promotion several years ago. It’s the opportunity for the UFC to pull off the type of title unification fight that doesn’t often present itself.
Like any championship situation, the timing will have to match up, but Melendez wants nothing more than to make his way to the UFC and prove that he is the No. 1 lightweight fighter in the world… and now it looks like he just might get the chance.
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