Gilbert Melendez Explains Injury Which Led to Strikeforce Cancellation

Gilbert Melendez wanted to fight.

The Strikeforce lightweight champion tried to gut things out for a couple days after injuring his shoulder in training, hoping to save his scheduled Sept. 29 title defense against Pat Healy.

But when things didn't get better, he had no choice but to remove himself from the bout.

"I let them know the issue that I was injured," Melendez told MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I was going to try to tough it out over the next couple days and give them a heads up by Friday. That's when I told [Strikeforce matchmaker] Shelby."

After Showtime declined to air the card without the planned main event, Strikeforce pulled the plug on the card entirely, marking the second Zuffa event cancellation in as many months.

Melendez said a potential cancellation never wasn't part of his thought process as he made his decision to withdraw.

"That didn't even cross my mind, to be honest, Melendez said. "It didn't cross my mind at all. It's a bummer to hear about that."

The saga began early last week, when Melendez was in one of his final all-out practices, grappling with campmate Jake Shields.

"About 12 days out of the fight, I was training hard," Melendez said. "[It was] one of my last days, last days of hard sparring. I was training hard and Jake Shields and I were battling on a takedown and I didn't want to give it up. I landed hard on my shoulder and ended up separating my shoulder."

While Melendez admitted that earlier in his career, he might have considered going on with the bout had such an injury occurred, he said it doesn't make sense at this juncture.

"I can tough anything out," he said. "If I had a broken leg, I'd tough it out, for my family, for my daughter, I'd do it in a heartbeat. That's not what it came down to. It came down to, what is good for me, what is good for my career. I can let my ego take over like maybe in my younger years. But, it's a business now and I had to treat it like a business. I could have gone out there and fought with one arm, but it's not the best choice for my career and I don't think Pat wants to win like that, I think most fighters in my situation would understand."

Melendez said he reached out to Healy and personally apologized for the bad news.

"You know, I just gave him the respect that he deserves, [and told Healy] that its a genuine injury and that I apologize. It sucks training for a fight and not getting any satisfaction out of it whether it's winning or losing. I let him know I'll get better and we'll tangle up pretty soon. I've got nothing but respect for the guy, that was basically it.

The champion says he's willing to fight Healy when he returns, but also understands if his would-be challenger has to take another bout in the interim.

"I think he deserves it, I think he does," Melendez said. "I'll fight whoever they need me to fight. If Pat chooses to fight someone else and loses, that's on him. Sometimes you need to fight and get that paycheck. I'll just fight whoever's next. I'm that fighter now, whoever they put in front of me, I'll fight him. That's basically it."

As for when Melendez will be able to return, that's TBD. If all goes well, he'll avoid surgery and be back training within six weeks.

"I can't even make a decision right now," he said. "I'm still injured right now. I want to reevaluate in maybe two more weeks, maybe I reevaluate in two more weeks and start making decisions like that. But I'm hoping about five weeks before I start training hard. I feel better rapidly every day, it was just bad timing.

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