Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is one of the few remaining top ranked fighters on the Strikeforce roster that hasn’t been plucked up and transplanted to the UFC yet.
Immediately after Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, they began siphoning competition to the UFC, making Melendez hopeful that he would finally get a shot at a UFC title and the recognition he deserves. For some time, it looked inevitable that El Niño would make his way to the UFC, but then it was announced he’d be defending his Strikeforce title against Jorge Masvidal.
Speaking with USA Today recently, Melendez revealed that he’s had to walk a delicate balance between planning for a hopeful future in the UFC and keeping his focus on the here and now, specifically Jorge Masvidal.
“I have to look ahead, because it’s part of the business,” Melendez says. “Look ahead of Masvidal and still maintain that I have to train hard and beat him. I know what’s on the line here.”
In that regard, Melendez assured that he’s taking Masvidal absolutely seriously and realizes that he poses a legitimate threat to his potential UFC career.
“I’ve always had him in my head and I’m like, ‘I might fight this guy,’ ” Melendez says. “He’s good, he’s not in the UFC, he’s in my circuit, so he’s always been a guy I’ve always had on my radar and a guy who’s always been calling me out. I think he’s pretty damn talented; I really do think that.”
Melendez will face Masvidal this Saturday night in the main event of Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal, which takes place at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California.