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Q&A: Gilbert Melendez talks Thomson, Strikeforce

When Gilbert Melendez defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri in PRIDE back on New Year's Eve 2006, there were two things that were quite evident. First, he was very talented. Second, he had the heart of a lion. But the reality is that all fighters have that bad day, which is often spurred on by a strong opponent. In losing his Strikeforce Lightweight Championship belt to Josh Thomson on June 27, 2008, there is no doubt that Melendez experienced one of those days.

"I just feel like Josh was in better shape, trained harder, and it just showed out there," he said. "You know, maybe that night was his night. I gave it all I could that night, but I know I usually have more to give."

So why didn't Melendez put it all out on the line with the same fervor he usually does? First, there was Thomson, who utilized outstanding striking and strong takedown defense all night long on his way to a decisive decision victory. But in addition, Melendez believes that structure was lacking in his training camp leading up to the bout. "Last time I felt like I was jumping around from gym to gym and didn't know exactly what I was doing that day. Or sometimes practice was just practice, it wasn't practice for Gilbert."

Melendez, then a top five ranked lightweight in the world, was certainly upset after the loss. But it didn't destroy him. "You know, it sucked," he said. "(Still) I love my life. I have great friends and loved ones around me and we get over it real quick. We have a drink and we just talk crap on Josh, no big deal."

On the flip side, Melendez hasn't exactly forgotten about the defeat, either. "Since I lost to Josh, all I've been thinking about in practice is how do I beat a guy like Josh? He kind of fights like Kenny Florian, stick and move, stick and move. How do you beat a guy like that? Tall, good range, and keeps you outside and keeps moving."

Haunting him is the notion that he could've done so much better the last time. "I was just a little upset at myself for stepping into a cage with not that much confidence and training with not that much motivation. And it showed out there, so that was the thing that bothered me."

But Melendez seems empowered by the knowledge of one thing concerning his true character. "I know I'm a warrior," he said. "I know I'll be a warrior until the day I retire from fighting." Which, by the way, will be no time soon.

"My goal is to just to really go out there and fight with a lot more confidence and a lot more heart and a lot more aggression and just do better than last time."

And if he does, that should make for one heckuva fight.

Other Important News from Gilbert

On the possibility of continuing to fight for Strikeforce: "In order for me to do this fight, we talked and we have a verbal agreement right now. (It's) still in the works, we'll see how it goes. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a couple of fights with Strikeforce and renew that contract. I'm pretty happy with it and I'm pretty happy with Scott Coker and I'm really happy with the exposure we're going to get (via Showtime)."

On whether he would refrain from jumping in with the UFC because training partner Nate Diaz is currently fighting for them in the same weight class: "Not at all. I would go fight in the UFC. That was actually kind of something I was leaning toward with exposure. Of course, Nate's my teammate. There's plenty of lightweights out there. I think all the Greg Jackson guys do it no problem. I don't think Nate and I would have a problem doing that."

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