Strikeforce lightweight champion Gil Melendez has put together a six-fight winning streak, and in one week, he'll step into action against former champion Josh Thomson.
The previous two clashes between Melendez and Thomson were action-packed affairs with the title belt exchanging hands.
Everything appeared to be shaping up perfectly for a third showdown until news surfaced this week about an injury Thomson suffered. After making a call to the Zuffa brass, Melendez was assured Thomson would be standing across from him on May 19 in San Jose, Calif.
“When I heard the news, I thought it was typical Josh Thomson,” Melendez told HeavyMMA. “He gets injured a lot and has had some issues with it. As far as I’m concerned, the fight is still on. Once I heard the rumor, I called (Strikeforce matchmaker) Sean Shelby, because he’s the man to call in these situations, and he said it’s a go. I’m anticipating Josh, and if not, I know they’ll find someone for me.
“The possibility of him getting injured before the fight was most definitely something I thought about. The first two times we fought, he was saying he was hurt coming into the fights and not 100 percent, but he came out guns blazing. This is something you hear from Josh a lot. Whether he had a s----y performance or his training wasn’t right, he always puts it out there.
“Who isn’t injured going into a fight? If you’re 100 percent going into a fight, then you probably didn’t train hard enough, to be honest. I have little injuries pop up here and there, but I don’t put them on blast. Fighting hurt comes with the territory in this business. I expected it coming into this fight, but I don’t expect him to be that injured. I’m anticipating he’ll be just fine when fight time rolls around."
“If I’m truly the best in the world, then I should be able to beat whoever they put in front of me. Everyone knows in MMA that styles make fights. Fighter A can beat Fighter B, and Fighter B can beat Fighter C, and Fighter C can beat Fighter A. The sport is crazy like that, but I have to be able to beat Fighter A through Z.”
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of recognition from the media and my peers for a while now, and I respect and appreciate that. When I heard what Nate said, I was touched. On the biggest day of his life, he gives me the biggest shout out. He’s just as much the No. 1 in the world as I am in my opinion.
“I think the common fan still hears my name and says, ‘Who the hell is that?' I think the reason is because they haven’t seen me fight or that I’m not in the UFC. I get respect from my fellow fighters, but the common fan doesn’t know who I am because they don’t follow Strikeforce the way they follow the UFC.”
“I wish some of these guys in the UFC would take the risk, but at the end of the day I understand the business moves. I’m sure their managers tell them fighting me in Strikeforce isn’t the best business move, and I understand.
“I’m going to be with Strikeforce for a while, or at least until my contract is up. I have this fight plus three more, and I respect that.”
“I have shown Josh respect in the past, and I respect him now, but I feel my skills are good enough for me to take control and show I am the better fighter. I’m going to be aggressive in this fight. Fans watching can expect me to take some risks and show a few new tricks. I’m just trying to represent my team and trying to represent for my family and friends. I can’t guarantee victory, but I can guarantee I’m ready for five rounds of battle.”