Currently ranked No. 2 in the UFC lightweight division, former Strikeforce and WEC champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez recently made waves with a well publicized contract dispute with the UFC that ultimately ended with him squaring off against current lightweight champ Anthony Pettis as coaches on TUF 20 and fighting for the title later this fall.
Melendez appeared on tonight’s edition of “UFC Tonight” to heap some high praise on the currently injured “Showtime”:
“Anthony Pettis is an amazing champion; the evolution in the sport, a really good test for myself. I’m looking forward to it.”
With nothing but good words for his opponent, Chael Sonnen and Kenny Florian asked him if he had any prior beef with Pettis:
“You know, I don’t have too much heat with Pettis, but anyone I fight is going to become my enemy. After doing this TV show with him, I’m sure we’re going to build a little animosity towards each other and build this rivalry a little bit. I’m very competitive and I think he’s the same way.”
Talk shifted to the upcoming TUF 20, a revolutionary season that will feature the debut of the women’s strawweight division with a limit of 115 pounds. Melendez said he was excited at the prospect the show presents:
“My wife actually fought for Strikeforce, she was the women’s Strikeforce champ, and I taught women’s jiu-jitsu in my gym and everything as well. You know, it takes a special person to be able to deal with that. And it’s a different breed of people, you know. But I enjoy it, I look forward to it, there’s some really good talent. I’m excited that these are like the top 10 women in the world. I don’t think a show’s ever done that. And we’re going to crown a champion afterwards? I’m totally jazzed by it.”
As far as his coaching staff on the show, Sonnen prodded Melendez until he finally admitted that his good friends the Diaz brothers would be invited onto the staff:
“I’m reaching out to the Diaz boys. Nick and Nate are definitely invited on there and they’re going to bring a lot to it. I reached out to Nate, and Nate knows already, and he told him to pass the message onto Nick, and hopefully Nick comes through. It’ll be exciting TV, and you know, this is my team, these are my brothers, so it’ll be great.”
Speaking of Nate Diaz, Melendez addressed his friend’s recent Tweet requesting his release from the UFC, saying that the younger Diaz only wants what he’s worth:
“Well, you know, Nathan has seen his brother be very successful with the dollar amounts, and I’ve had some success. He’s a guy who’s a top 10 entertaining, most popular, always on pay-per-view, always delivers, and, uh, I just think he wants what he deserves and it’s fair for him to speak. But no matter what happens to Nathan, he’s always going to land on his feet, everyone’s going to wanna watch him, I wanna watch him, everyone loves him.”
Sonnen and Florian were quick to agree with “El Nino’s” closing statement. With Nate wanting more money and Nick calling for title shots out of the woodwork, when we will see the polarizing bad boys back in action inside the Octagon?
Photo: Kyle Terada for USA TODAY Sports