'El Nino' willing to give up belt for UFC title shot

June, 10, 2011
6/10/11
11:36
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Gilbert MelendezMark J. Rebilas for ESPN.comWhat's the holdup? Gilbert Melendez is ready for a shot at the UFC lightweight title now.
No UFC official has approached Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez to gauge his interest in fighting the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard winner, but he wishes someone would -- and soon.

Melendez has heard all the banter surrounding Jim Miller and Clay Guida as top 155-pound contenders, and wonders aloud why he isn’t being seriously considered. He understands that not being on the UFC roster is a hindrance, but it's a matter that can easily be resolved: his Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teammate, Strikeforce welterweight titleholder Nick Diaz, overcame that issue by agreeing to relinquish his crown. Diaz is now set to face UFC 170-pound champion Georges St. Pierre in October.

Melendez told ESPN.com on Friday, before appearing on "MMA Live," that he’d also be willing to give up his Strikeforce belt for a chance to prove he is the best lightweight in MMA.

“Sure! I would give up my Strikeforce belt to fight the UFC champion,” Melendez said. “I’d really like a unification bout.”

UFC simply has to make him an offer. Melendez believes he’s already earned the right to fight for UFC gold.

“I should be on the top of the list, not just because of what I’ve done recently, but because of my whole history,” Melendez said. “I’m more of a veteran than any of these guys.

“I’ve fought overseas, I’ve fought in Japan, I’ve been booed, I’ve fought in places where I’ve been the underdog and I’ve beaten champions when they were champions.I want the shot at the [UFC] title. I’m the true No. 1 contender and I’m the favorite as well. But I will roll with the punches. If they want me to fight a little more I will do it.”

As much as Melendez wants to face the Edgar-Maynard winner, he won’t sit around waiting. He is eager to get back in the cage as soon as possible.

“I’m ready,” said Melendez, who sports a professional mark of 19-2-0. “I was ready yesterday. I was ready to start training for a fight yesterday.

“But it’s going to take some time for them to figure out what the game plan is for me. Once I start fighting, it’s going to keep going and going. As for now I don’t have a set date.”

Melendez remains hopeful that someone from UFC, preferably matchmaker Joe Silva, will call him with a title offer in the not-too-distant future. If an offer is made, whoever holds UFC lightweight belt after Edgar and Maynard resolve their differences (no date has been set for the fight), he’d better be concerned if Melendez is his next test.

Melendez, who is No. 3 in the ESPN.com lightweight power rankings, is unlike any fighter Edgar or Maynard has ever faced in a cage. He’s every lightweight’s worst nightmare -- strong, intelligent, aggressive and multi-skilled.

“Regardless, [Edgar or Maynard] are going to have a fight on their hands,” Melendez said. “It’s going to be a fight. Someone’s going to get hurt. That’s the difference with fighting me.

“Right now these fights are matches, but I’m going to make it a real fight. I’m the true mixed martial artist out there. Everyone has their strength -- either standup or wrestling. My strength is mixed martial arts.”

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