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Reinvented Gilbert Melendez seeks 'historic fight' with Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215

EDMONTON – Wins and losses be damned: Gilbert Melendez is going to stick to his roots and try to add another “Fight of the Night” or “Fight of the Year” to his resume when he takes on Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215.

The former Strikeforce champion Melendez (22-6 MMA, 1-4 UFC), who meets Stephens (25-14 MMA, 12-13 UFC) in Saturday’s pay-per-view main card opener at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, enters the event on a three-fight losing skid and winless over a nearly four-year period.

Melendez is in the midst of the kind of drought that would force some fighters to adjust their style and step in the octagon with a more win-centric approach. He said that’s not going to be the case when he faces another brawler like Stephens.

“I want a historic fight,” Melendez told MMAjunkie at today’s UFC 215 media day. “I want to go down in this sport as a warrior, as a legend. I want people to look back at my fights. I was looking down my Facebook feed the other day, and there’s this highlight video of (my fight with) Diego (Sanchez at UFC 166), and it has like 48 million views. It doesn’t matter about records, Diego’s record, there’s 48 million views on that frickin’ video, because we’re warriors and we put it out there. I’m looking to do that.

“In my opinion and to my community and all the people I roll with, I think that’s more respectable than any sort of championship, is going down in history as a warrior. It’s an opportunity for me to have another epic fight with another warrior out there.”

Although Melendez enters the contest with a similar mentality as he’s carried into the octagon previously, there will be one major difference when he fights at UFC 215, and that’s the scheduled division. Melendez will drop to featherweight for the first time since August 2005 in hopes of finding renewed success in the cage.

“I’m looking to reinvent myself and start fresh,” Melendez said. “I’m feeling OK. It’s manageable. It’s been tough. I’ve been trying to sustain it. One big heavy meal and boom, I can shoot my weight up. But I can sustain it the last few days. I like what I woke up this morning at, and I think I’m going to get there no problem. I can’t wait to rehydrate up and get a lot of food in me and feel fully charged.”

Despite his current skid, Melendez said he’s not putting a particularly significant amount of pressure on himself to win. The current state of his career would be entirely different if a few narrow decision results went his way, and he hasn’t forgotten about that.

Melendez said he still has the desire to compete in the sport and doesn’t feel that will change any time soon.

“I feel like the 1-4 (UFC record) doesn’t really represent it, what I’ve really done,” Melendez said. “It’s a bummer, and I could go off on how I feel like I beat Benson (Henderson) and how I beat Eddie (Alvarez) and all that, and I could easily be 3-2 in the UFC. It is what it is. … I’m satisfied with what I’ve done, and I’m still doing what I love. I’m challenging myself, I’m cashing in a paycheck making money for my family. And though I’ve lost, I haven’t gotten dominated, I believe. I don’t feel like I’ve been knocked out. I don’t feel like I’ve taken a lot of damage. And I feel like I can still do this, and that’s why I’m here.”

Melendez might still feel present at the top of the sport, but he’s also aware suffering a fourth consecutive loss would enter him into dangerous territory. He reiterated that he’s not going to alter his approach to the fight game, but he hopes fighting to his true self will result in victory against Stephens.

“If I want to keep fighting I can keep fighting just because I did some stuff on paper that allows me to do whatever the hell I want,” Melendez said. “I don’t enjoy losing. It’s been close, and I feel like I’ve had some bad things. I don’t enjoy losing. I’m looking to go out here and win. I’m not really thinking about the future, but definitely if things don’t go my way I’m going to assess things a little bit more.”

For more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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