Gilbert Melendez is an MMA veteran who has played his part in some of the greatest fights of all-time. Now 35 years of age, the Californian, a former Strikeforce and WEC champion, takes on Jeremy Stephens in another guaranteed barburner at UFC 215 on Saturday night (September 9).
Before that, though, he took some time out to answer the questions of Fighters Only contributor Tony Reid.
Question: You are a former two-time Strikeforce lightweight champion and WEC lightweight champion. Adding a UFC lightweight title gives you a collection of belts few fighters on the planet can match. Is that something that still drives you?
Gilbert Melendez: That would be amazing, but that’s not really on my mind right now. I really have a tough fight at hand and I have been focusing on that right now.
Q: How much time would you say you devote to your opponent on a daily basis?
GM: All of it. Sometimes I have to turn him off in my mind and he comes back on. It’s repetitive. I already know what I am going to do. I already know my technique. I have drilled hundreds of thousands of times. I drill in my head over and over and over. That’s because I respect my opponents. As the fight gets closer my confidence grows.
Q: You have been involved in some of the most hellacious battles the sport has ever seen, but which fight has been the fight of your life?
GM: I fought (Tatsuya) Kawajiri twice in my career. The first time I fought him he was in Japan and he was ranked number two in the world at 155 pounds. I went out there and at the very beginning of the fight he knocked me down. It was the first time I had been dropped like that.
I got back up. I kept fighting. I won that fight. From then on I was number two in the world in 2007. Just being able to get up after getting knocked down said a lot about me and gave me a lot of confidence in the heart I have. That meant a lot to me. Better than dominating a fight is overcoming adversity. To be able to do that in that fight had to be one of my proudest moments.
Q: As a fan of the sport, who do you enjoy watching the most?
GM: Growing up, I was a big Takanori Gomi fan. To see the way he threw down was a big inspiration; him being the number one 155-pounder in the world at the time. I feel like there is nothing out there quite like Jon Jones. He is just something special that I have never seen before. He just does it so well. He utilizes his long body and reach. The way he puts things together… I’m not the tightest with Jones. I’ve had a few conversations with him, but as a fighter and a fan, man, that boy is good.
Q: Put your game-planning and analyst hat on and break down how you would be successful against Jon Jones…
GM: Holy smokes, I have never thought about it. That would be a tough one. Crowd him like Daniel Cormier did and try to land some solid punches. I would try to crowd him. That’s not easy though, man. If I had to fight Jon Jones I would have to grow to 6’4 with a wingspan of 85 inches, so I had an inch on him. I would have to add some weight, too. I don’t want to be under that guy.