Gilbert Melendez has been regarded as one of the planet’s top 155érs for years now, problem was, however, that most mainstream fans and observers didn’t know who he was. Despite the fact “El Nino” was the Strikeforce champion and had defeated several well established lightweights, because he wasn’t in the UFC, Meldendez didn’t get the attention and credit he deserved.
Of course, that all changed earlier this year when Melendez was brought into the UFC and was granted an immediate title shot versus Benson Henderson. Although the 31 year-old lost a razor thin, split decision at UFC on FOX 7, Melendez relayed to the media this week that he’s finally earned the respect he deserves (comments via MMA Fighting.com).
“I had the biggest chip on my shoulder for awhile,” Melendez said. “I wasn’t performing that well. It was good money, but I was bitter at the world that you couldn’t be recognized as a real fighter unless you fought in the UFC. You put so much f— work in and beat good people and travel the world and all kinds of stuff, but it sucked that you still got considered a minor-league fighter all the time.”
“It was all positive stuff,” Melendez said. “Besides winning the title, it was the best ‘B’ scenario for me. The majority of people think I won, 75/25 percent think I won that fight. More recognition than ever, really, nothing to be bitter about aside from not getting the scorecards in a competitive fight. It wasn’t the biggest ripoff in history. It was a close fight, I think I won it, I stand by it, but yeah.”
It definitely was a close fight, just as many fans and pundits expected would be the case. This Saturday the #2 ranked Melendez will battle Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, and although it was a bit of a surprise booking (Sanchez isn’t in the top ten), it could be a tough fight for the decorated fighter. The rugged Sanchez has been stopped just once, and that was via cut, in 29 fights.
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