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Melendez done talking about suspension entering return

At a time when fans are fed up with the topic of doping, Gilbert Melendez is focusing solely on Saturday's return against Edson Barboza at UFC Chicago. Ed Mulholland for ESPN

UFC lightweight Gilbert Melendez knows how it looks.

The 34-year-old lost the past 12 months of his career to suspension, after testing positive for testosterone metabolites following a split-decision loss to Eddie Alvarez in June 2015.

As Melendez (22-5) prepares to return to competition on Saturday against Edson Barboza at UFC Fight Night in Chicago, he does so at a time when fans are pretty much fed up with the topic of performance-enhancing drugs in mixed martial arts.

This month's landmark UFC 200 event was riddled with anti-doping controversy, as stars Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar were each flagged with potential doping violations.

Melendez quickly accepted responsibility for his failed test when it was announced, although he implied the positive test stemmed from an honest mistake and not intentional use. Melendez stated, "I will make sure I am better-educated about the products I use and their implications."

Heading into this comeback fight against Barboza, Melendez has chosen to leave the issue there.

"You can always start blaming things and going in different angles," Melendez told ESPN.com. "What I concluded is that there's no one to blame but myself. I can try to defend myself, but I don't even want to go into it because you can fall down a rabbit hole. I think people need to be accountable, whether they're at 100 percent fault or 10 percent fault.

"It's been a hard thing to deal with. That's why I'm so happy to be back, to prove that I'm still here to bang. I'm still a warrior. Of course it's a bummer and what people are thinking, that runs through your head -- but I've moved past it."

Melendez will certainly jump right back into the fire against Barboza (17-4), who is 2-2 in his past four fights but is coming off a convincing three-round win over former champion Anthony Pettis.

ESPN.com ranks Barboza the No. 9 lightweight in the world, but Melendez still sees himself as the "A side" of the fight, with perhaps more to lose than to gain by defeating Barboza. Melendez is the bigger name to this point and, despite a 1-3 record in his past four fights, believes his performances have been consistent with the top of the division.

"I felt I won my last fight against Eddie Alvarez," Melendez said. "I wasn't impressed with my performance but I felt I did more damage. In my book, I beat the [current] champ.

"Yeah, I'm 1-3 on my record but in my opinion, I beat Benson [Henderson, in April 2013]. I thought I beat Eddie. Pettis is the only one I really lost to [December 2014]. I don't really look at those as losses. It's unfortunate my record says I'm 1-3 in my last four when I really should be 3-1."

That said, Melendez says he's not in a rush to call out Alvarez, who won the title earlier this month by upsetting Rafael dos Anjos via first-round knockout. Melendez, who fights out of San Francisco, is only concerned with repairing his image from last year's suspension, which he believes is done by putting on a show.

"The way things go at the UFC, you never know about a title shot," Melendez said. "Dan Henderson is fighting Michael Bisping for a title. This whole thing can be wild. I'm not even campaigning for that. I'm not saying, 'Yeah, I'm going to walk through Edson and I want Eddie next.' For me, I just want to fight right now. I want to beat this very tough guy in front of me."