Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is viewed as one of the elite fighters in any division.

Melendez, who will defend his title against Pat Healy next Saturday night at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy, was asked during a conference call what motivates him to continue fighting after several successful title defenses:

You always remain a student in this sport. Sometimes, things get stale, you hit a plateau, so you have to re-evaluate everything and improve as a fighter. When you are a champion, sometimes that is harder to do. I found my motivation in just wanting to continue to learn and become a better mixed martial artist. I am blessed with a really cool job.

The 30-year-old Melendez (21-2) has defended his title four times since unifying it with a win over Josh Thomson. His last loss was in 2008 to Thomson.

I look forward to fighting Pat. I want to cast myself against new blood, new opponents. Pat likes to come forward and is old-school. I consider myself an old-school fighter, as well.

Healy is 28-16 in his long MMA career, and has won five consecutive bouts.

Photo credit: Showtime Sports