Gilbert Melendez may not be in the UFC (yet), but he damn sure wants to be. He also wants a UFC title shot and believes he’s ready for it now, as he told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour today.

“The UFC title is the best belt,” he said. “I want that belt and I want it as soon as possible.”

“I’m definitely impressed by Frankie. He’s an amazing fighter. He’s great,” Melendez said. “I honestly feel like I’m the No. 1 contender and I feel like I’m ready for the title shot now.”

While it’s still unclear if he’ll get that opportunity, Melendez says he’s still focusing on Jorge Masvidal, who he’s expected to fight in December if the UFC doesn’t pull him over sooner. As patient as Melendez is trying to be though, he feels like he’s put in his time and deserves the chance.

“I’m a vet in this sport,” Melendez told ( “I’ve been here for a long, long time, and I’m ready to prove I’m No. 1. I’m ready to start taking over and holding down the weightclass, promoting the sport and representing MMA. I’ve been ready for that awhile.”

“I’ve been here longer than Frankie,” Melendez said. “I’ve been here longer than Gray. I’ve been here longer than Melvin Guillard. I’ve been here longer than Clay Guida. I’ve been here longer than all these dudes. It’s not like I’m a new kid that needs to get his feet wet. ”

“I know the common fan thinks I haven’t made the big leagues yet,” Melendez said. “I’ve been working my butt off to put on really good shows and really good, entertaining fights. I’ve proven myself.”

With Melvin Guillard knocked out of contention, Frankie Edgar vs. Gilbert Melendez really is the fight that needs to happen. When I think of contenders I don’t just look at who they beat, but how they beat them. Not only has Melendez defeated some of the best lightweights outside the UFC in the last couple years, he dominated them. It’s hard to watch him destroy Tatusya Kawajiri and not want to see him fight Frankie Edgar next. It would be a great lightweight title fight and I hope it happens.

Image via Esther Lin for Strikeforce/Showtime