Gilbert Melendez may be a familiar name now to mainstream UFC fans, thanks to his memorable battle with Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 7, but it wasn’t long ago most casual observers didn’t really know who “El Nino” was.
While Melendez has been highly regarded for years within the MMA industry and amongst diehard fans, the fighter has admitted the lack of widespread recognition got to him. While speaking to the media in advance of his UFC 166 tilt with Diego Sanchez on Saturday, Melendez stated (quotes 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.”
Although Melendez came up short in his title fight with Henderson, and lost by split decision, the fight got the 31 year-old the far reaching respect he deserves.
“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.”
Melendez is currently ranked #2 in the UFC’s top ten ranks, so if he hopes to fight for the belt in the near future, a win over Sanchez is crucial. It’s an interesting fight, no question.
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