Esther Lin, Strikeforce
When Gilbert Melendez kept his Strikeforce lightweight title by the skin of his teeth after a May 19 trilogy fight against former champion Josh Thomson, the last thing he wanted was a fourth fight with his rival.
But some time over the past four months, the Californian had a change of heart. Melendez is preparing to defend his title against the underrated Pat Healy on Sept. 29, but during a Tuesday press teleconference, the champion said he's open to the idea of meeting his former training partner one more time.
"I'm definitely down for it," Melendez said. "I'd be up for it. I'm not looking forward to it right away, but I'm definitely not scared of it."
After Thomson defeated Melendez to take the latter's Strikeforce title in 2008, Melendez defeated Thomson via decision the following year. Then in what at the time was presumably their final fight, Thomson rallied after a slow start and came one round short on two cards away from taking the belt.
"I don't think it was my best performance," Melendez said of the bout in Thomson's hometown of San Jose. "I think Thomson's a tough guy, I think we know each other well. It was a close fight and San Jose's his town, and they were 0-for-3 that night until Cormier came in. It's a little hard because I usually don't get booed and I put my life on the line out there. It kind of hurt, but it is what it is. I'm just moving forward, If I have to fight him again, if he keeps winning, it is what it is."
It wouldn't be a Gilbert Melendez interview if there weren't several questions about where he stands in the rankings. Melendez is 21-2 in his career and has won seven straight fights, but because he's under contract to Strikeforce, which doesn't have the deepest of talent pools, his standing among the sport's pound-for-pound best remains a topic of debate.
"I've been around for awhile, and I've done pretty good in the rankings," Melendez said. "If you look at my history, I've beat a lot of guys, I've traveled oversees did some things, at one time I was No. 1 in the world at 145 and I went up to 155."
"I'm up there, I don't know exactly where I am. It used to be a bigger concern of mine, but not so much nowadays. But yeah, I feel like I'm up there. I feel like I could go up to 170 and beat some of those guys as well and if need be I can go back to '45 and be the number one guy as well."
Until that time, Melendez will focus on the things he can control. And for now, that means preparing for his bout with Healy, a tough Team Quest veteran who has won five consecutive bouts and eight of his past nine.
"Sometimes things get stale and you hit a plateau for a minute and you gotta kind of re-evalute everything," Melendez said. "You really use your brain and figure out how to evolve as a fighter and how to improve as a fighter and point out your weaknesses.
"I found my motivation, I'm a student of the sport. I just want to learn and continue to learn and grow and get better as a mixed martial artist. I'm blessed with a really good job. I want to keep going and test myself against new blood and new opponents. Fighting someone like Pat is a guy I look forward to fighting. He likes to come forward, he likes to fight, he's a little old school and I'm old school, and that motivates me. "
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