Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez defended his belt successfully last night against a very game Jorge Masvidal, battling back the challenger amidst swirling speculation about his future.
Some months ago, it looked like Melendez’s battle with Masvidal would be canceled so that El Niño could finally make his way to the UFC; after a lengthy period of speculation – during which he was still expected to be training for Masvidal – it was revealed that Melendez would be remaining in Strikeforce indefinitely, despite the champ’s repeatedly stated desire to move over to the UFC.
Through all of it, Melendez managed to keep his head about him and train well enough to unanimously defeat Masvidal, who once again proved that he’s criminally underrated. Though he made little of it before the fight, Melendez admitted to MMAJunkie that it thoroughly took its toll on him.
“It’s been a roller-coaster trying to stay focused with all of this,” Melendez said. “I’ve got people telling me I’m going to the UFC. I’ve got people telling me I’m not. I also bring this pressure on myself saying I’m No. 1, you know what I mean? You’ve got to back it up when you talk like that. I’ve just got to have faith. What can I do? I’ve got no time to be crying or be negative about [expletive]. I’ve just got to stay focused and see what they bring to the table. We’ll go from there.”
As for his future, Melendez told MMAJunkie that he’s content remaining in Strikeforce, but plans to hold his bosses accountable for promising to provide him with credible challengers.
“I’m happy to be a part of Strikeforce and Showtime,” Melendez said. “I’ve got faith that they’re going to do what’s good for me. Dana told me that. ‘It’s going to be great for your career.’ When I signed with Strikeforce, I was like, ‘I don’t know, Scott.’ Then I was fighting on Showtime. I’m like, ‘Alright, I don’t know, Scott,’ and then he brings me Aoki, the No. 2 fighter in the world. Then I get a great challenge like Jorge. A lot of people underrate him. For me, this was a big win for me to get. Jorge is a guy I’ve seen in the circuit for a long time.
“I guess what I’m trying to get at is they manage to deliver for me, and I’ve got to continue to have faith that they will continue to deliver for me. We’ll all sit down together, and we’ll start talking. I think I’m in a position to ask some questions, and we’ll ask some questions and see what’s next.”