Gilbert Melendez said he doesn't have any animosity toward Eddie Alvarez. Well, Alvarez might not exactly share that sentiment.
Alvarez told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour that he feels like Melendez is like "the high school cheerleader always trying to s*ck off the quarterback." The two former champions have feuded on social media and in the press for years. Both have agreed that now is the time to make the fight finally happen.
"If he's not making headlines, he'll say he wants to fight the guy who is," Alvarez said. "He always would talk about me. I just lost, but when I was on a streak and doing well, whenever I would do well, right away, well Gilbert wants to fight me. I didn't do so well? 'Oh, I think he lost a step. I don't want to fight him right now.' I don't know. I don't know about this guy."
Melendez was on The MMA Hour last week and, while he wasn't as critical of Alvarez, he reiterated that he wants the fight.
"I don't really care much about him, but I do respect him as a fighter," Melendez said. "I'd like to share the Octagon with him finally."
The rivalry goes back years to when Melendez was the Strikeforce lightweight champion and Alvarez held the lightweight title in Bellator. Then-Bellator president Bjorn Rebney wanted to co-promote with Strikeforce and put together a Melendez-Alvarez champion vs. champion bout. Alvarez even called into The MMA Hour when then-Strikeforce president Scott Coker was on to campaign for the fight.
It never came together. But, as Alvarez pointed out, now is the perfect time. Both are in the UFC, coming off losses and are remain two of the best 155-pound fighters in MMA. Alvarez even said he would forego a title shot just to get Melendez in the Octagon and thought about staying in Bellator when he heard Melendez might sign with the promotion.
"I beat this guy every time out," Alvarez said. "With everything in me. I don't know how he feels about his fight skills, but the things that he's good at -- his style -- I'm better at. I hit harder, I'm stronger, I feel like I'm faster. I just really want to hit this guy. I'm excited about it."
Melendez proposed the bout go down in Mexico, where the UFC is likely to hold an event in June. Alvarez doesn't want to wait that long. He had to pull out of a fight with Benson Henderson last month due to family issues. Alvarez's newborn daughter had complications at birth and his family is in the process of moving back to their hometown Philadelphia for treatment. Alvarez will continue to do his training camps with the Blackzilians in Boca Raton, Fla.
"I just kind of got my head wrapped around I was gonna make this work, do what I had to do with making this work, dealing with what my family and my newborn was going through," Alvarez said. "It just came to the point where the fight was not as important as what was going on in my life. I tried to do it and I thought I could do it, but it just bubbled up to the point where it just took priority."
Alvarez (25-4) would like to get back in the cage by April or May. He's down in Florida training right now, getting ready as if he had a fight booked. The 31-year-old doesn't want to let another opportunity to fight Melendez go by.
"I just think it's been too long," he said. "It's been too long, it's been too controversial and I don't know what this guy is gonna do. He was trying to go to Bellator."
Melendez did sign with Bellator last year, but the UFC matched the contract and Melendez returned. Alvarez landed in the UFC after four years with Bellator back in September. He fell to Donald Cerrone at UFC 178 in his UFC debut, while Melendez was defeated by champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 181 on Dec. 6.
Putting the two of them together now seems like a no-brainer. The only thing that needs to get decided is timing.
"I hope so," Alvarez said. "I don't think [any contract] was made for it, but I think it's just him saying he wants to fight me. I agree, so there's nothing for me to sign. My word is as good as gold. I'm good with the fight."