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Mitsuhiro Ishida: Gilbert Melendez Better Get Ready for 'Something Special'

Mitsuhiro Ishida will be stepping in on two weeks' notice this Saturday at Strikeforce as he attempts to repeat the biggest win of his career in a lightweight title bout against interim champion Gilbert Melendez.

Ishida (18-5-1), who handed Melendez (15-2) the first loss of his career at "Yarennoka!" on New Year's Eve 2007, accepted the rematch in place of the only other person to hand Melendez a loss, the injured champ Josh Thomson.

In this FanHouse exclusive, Ishida comments on the rematch via e-mail through a translator.

Ray Hui: What was your initial reaction to being offered a title fight on two weeks' notice?

Mitsuhiro Ishida: My initial reaction was total surprise of Josh Thomson out of the fight. And after that surprise feeling, I felt both willingness for the fight and honored to fight in a title match.

Gilbert has had months to train for a five-round fight and this will be something new to you. What are some of the things you've implemented in your training to prepare for a fight that can possibly go five rounds?

Of course this fight will be my first experience to fight for 25 minutes, if it goes to decision. But I usually train hard and have confidence in my stamina. And also I have implemented something special for this fight, but I'd like to keep my mouth shut about this "special thing."

Since you last fought two years ago, how much do you think Melendez has changed as a fighter and how have you improved as a fighter?

Seeing Melendez's current fight, I felt that he has improved a lot with his wrestling defense. But also I think he is as aggressive and wild as before. I'd like to show my improvement by my fight itself, not by some words.

Where do you see a win over Melendez putting you in the rankings?

I really do not care much about my rankings. But I know how this fight is important to me, and would like show everything I've got and prove myself as a one of the best lightweight in the world.

In your last Strikeforce fight, I thought your kimura takedown to the armbar was one of the best submissions I've ever seen. Was that something you expected to pull off in a fight?

Transition itself is something that I usually train, and it came out naturally in that fight. It wasn't something I intentionally tried but rather came out naturally.

As someone who has fought for both Strikeforce and DREAM, what are your thoughts on the two groups forming a partnership?

It's nothing but excitement, isn't it? Just imagine the fight between Josh [Thomson] against [Tatsuya] Kawajiri or [Shinya] Aoki, Robby [Lawler] against Melvin [Manhoef], there are many fights that I'd like to see as a fight fan. And with this partnership, these dream fights are likely to happen. That's exciting!

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