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Gilbert Melendez brought Nate Diaz to TUF to intimidate Anthony Pettis

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Esther Lin

LOS ANGELES - Gilbert Melendez laughs off the fact that his next opponent, UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, is going to be featured on a Wheaties box and he won't.

"I shop at Whole Foods anyway," Melendez quipped to reporters Thursday.

But Melendez stopped joking around at the The Ultimate Fighter 20 media day when it came to the heat between Pettis and Melendez's Skrap Pack running mate, Nate Diaz.

In the leadup to TUF's 20th season, Pettis has seemed more concerned with Diaz than Melendez, his opposing coach on the show and title challenger on Dec. 6.

"I definitely want to kick his ass," Pettis said last week of Diaz, who was Melendez's TUF 20 assistant coach. "I was on the show with him every day, I was there seven weeks and he didn't say anything."

For his part, Melendez says he's not sure why Pettis seems fixated on someone he isn't scheduled to fight.

"I don't even know why he keeps bringing Nate up," Melendez said. "He had six weeks to say something to Nate too, and he didn't, so I don't know what he was talking about. It's like when a girl is all ‘she didn't say hi to me.' Well, did you say hi to her? That's just garbage."

Melendez did admit, however, that he brought Diaz on to the set to add an element of intimidation to the proceedings.

"I had Nate Diaz on the show and the intimidation factor is there," Melendez said. "Heavyweights are afraid of Nate Diaz. They're like ‘oh s---,' you know what I mean? I brought Nate out there for that. I brought Nate out, [Pettis] brought 10 dudes. ... Even though the contract said you should only bring four people. He had 10 people, I was like, ‘ahh, I didn't get the memo.' But those things tend to happen on his side."

The world Nate Diaz and older brother Nick inhabit has a distinct "us vs. them" vibe. If you fall on the "us" side, the loyalty runs deep. So much so that Diaz was willing to put aside his current contract dispute with the UFC for Melendez's sake, a gesture the former Strikeforce lightweight champ deeply appreciates.

"Nate was there," Melendez said. "He was there for me. He was there to back me up. That's how Nate is. He didn't want to be on a TV show for six weeks, it is something he wouldn't do for many people. He really stuck to it and he backed me up the whole time. And yeah, he's not fake at all. He doesn't like Pettis, they were there, he didn't say nothing. He just mugged, that's his culture. He didn't talk s---, he wasn't looking to do that on my show. He's not trying to mess it up, he's there to help. Nate is a really good friend of mine and a really good dude, and really stepped up."

Of course, the heat on the Las Vegas set wasn't just between Pettis and Diaz. Things were also tense between Melendez and Pettis during the show, which debuts Wednesday night on FOX Sports 1.

As far as Melendez sees it, he simply kept things real: Neither trying to force a friendship with his opposing coach, nor creating and staged histrionics for the benefit of the cameras.

"There was tension," Melendez said. "There was, let's not fake it and try to be friends, but let's also not fake it and talk s--, because that's not what I do. I do my talking in the cage. There was tension there, but I respect him. We'd say ‘sup' and go our separate ways in the hall. There were a couple days where we had to do photo shoots and we were right there mugging each other, and it was a little awkward. We did a whole photo session mad dogging each other and not saying one word to each other."