Of Strikeforce’s top four champions in 2011, only lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez remains in the organization following the Zuffa buyout. Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson and Nick Diaz have all left Strikeforce for greener pastures in the UFC.
While Melendez insists he’s focused on an “underrated” Jorge Masvidal, he has made no bones about it — the UFC is where he wants to be so he can prove he’s the number one lightweight in the world.
“It’s obvious it’s something we’ve been talking about. I think it’s inevitable,” he said of a future move to UFC. “I think some of the top fighters need to go to the UFC. And I’m one of those guys, so it’s in the works. Things have been talked about. Am I in [the discussions] all the time? Am I the one talking to them? No. But there’s some dialogue going on and I mean, the goal is to be the UFC champion at the end of the day. The goal is to be No. 1 in the world at the end of the day. And the only way to do that is by getting the UFC title.”
“The goal is to be No. 1 in the world, you know what I mean?” he said. “If I have to beat Jorge, if I have to beat someone else, if I have to beat five more people before that, then so be it. But, the sooner the better. I think I deserve the chance at the UFC title. So, if I can get it as soon as possible that would be great. If not, I’ll have to keep winning and keep working hard. If I feel like I have to constantly prove myself in this MMA industry, then so be it. It’s inevitable. I’m coming for that spot.”
When Strikeforce’s demise seemed inevitable, Dana White matter-of-factly declared that he wanted to bring Melendez over ASAP, however now that the tide has turned and it looks like Strikeforce might have a future after all, Dana has unfortunately changed his tune about Melendez moving to the UFC.
“The guys that are in Strikeforce are staying in Strikeforce,” the fight executive said on Saturday. “Strikeforce lives.”
“Gilbert Melendez and all the guys that are in the Strikeforce show and with Showtime, I will make this right,” White said. “They will be happy to be there. Believe me. I’ve got this thing worked out. I’ve got it figured out. It’s going to be good for everybody. It’s going to be good for the fighters, it’s going to be good for Showtime, and it’s going to be good for Strikeforce. Trust me, I got this.”
That may be good news for Melendez’s bank account, but unless Dana White plans to do some crossover fights (doubtful), it’s not good news for Melendez’s goal to be universally recognized as the number one lightweight in MMA. It’s not really good for the fans either who want to see if Melendez has what it takes to beat the Frankie Edgar’s of the world.
The situation may be out of his control, but the best thing Melendez can do is put on the kind of performance against Jorge Masvidal this weekend that makes Dana White salivate for a Frankie Edgar vs. Gilbert Melendez title fight and hope everything works out like it should.