Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez

Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez

It’s hard to argue Gilbert Melendez’s status among the elite lightweights in the world.

After his first-round drubbing of fellow Top 10 fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri in Strikeforce last month, Melendez is perched as the No. 1 lightweight in the MMAWeekly.com World MMA Rankings, right in front of UFC champion Frankie Edgar and top contender Gray Maynard.

Edgar and Maynard were slated to battle it out for a third time at the end of this month at UFC 130 with the UFC lightweight belt on the line, but injuries to both fighters put the fight on the shelf until later this year. But with a dwindling list of contenders to face in Strikeforce, Melendez would love to challenge the winner of Edgar vs. Maynard 3.

With both the UFC and Strikeforce under the Zuffa umbrella now, Melendez would be happy to receive that opportunity.

“I agree and if it is business as usual people are going to want to see that fight, and maybe it can happen sooner than later,” Melendez told MMAWeekly Radio about facing Edgar or Maynard.

Melendez’s head coach, Cesar Gracie, agrees that for his fighter to face the very best in his division, he’s likely going to have to look outside of Strikeforce to find it.

“I really do not believe that,” Gracie answered when asked if there are contenders left in Strikeforce for Melendez. “And the reason I can say that is I’m looking at the talent pool they have in there, and I don’t see who they’re going to bring up.

“Guys that are winning are guys like (Shinya) Aoki and we’ve seen that fight. It was five rounds of Gilbert completely dominating the guy and beating him, and I don’t think other guys can even get past Aoki. You’ve seen Gilbert dominate Josh Thomson, and Thomson just recently lost to (Tatsuya) Kawajiri, and then Kawajiri comes over and just gets crushed, no pun intended, by Gilbert Melendez. So for exciting match-ups, I think we’re going to have to go outside of Strikeforce.”

Melendez is stuck in a similar situation as his friend and teammate Nick Diaz, who has essentially cleaned out any top welterweight contender the promotion has right now.

While Melendez isn’t likely to follow Diaz into the boxing world to explore new challenges, the leader of the Skrap Pack is looking to face the best in the world and those fighters currently aren’t with Strikeforce.

“I’m hoping that Dana (White) and these guys understand that also, and make the dream match-ups that the fans really and truly want. We need to see these guys fight Gilbert Melendez over there,” Gracie said.

“Gil wants to test himself. He wants that belt; he wants the UFC belt also to add to his collection of belts, and yeah I hope they put those fights together.”

Melendez is currently waiting to hear from Strikeforce about who he could face next, but rumors are circulating that a potential match-up between K.J. Noons and Jorge Masvidal could determine the next contender to his belt.


Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
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