Gilbert Melendez defended his Strikeforce Lightweight title for the fourth consecutive time on May 19, when he defeated Josh Thomson via split decision at the Strikeforce:Barnett vs. Cormier event which took place in San Jose, California.
After 9-straight title fights and 7-straight wins, Melendez not only retained his title, but had finally shut the door on his four-year rivalry with Thomson. As is the case in any split decision, the win was contested by some fight fans. As far as Melendez is concerned, that chapter in his life is over. He said in an interview with MMAJunkie.com: “I have no interest right now, you know what I mean? Everyone was like, ‘Let’s close the book on this,’ and we did. I won two out of three and it is what it is. People can be mad and people can say whatever, but it’s over in my book. I am looking for new things, you never know what happens in the future. Maybe it’s going to come around again, and if it does, so be it.”
As we asked before the Thomson fight, who will Melendez face next?
At one point, Melendez seemed a shoe-in to make a move to UFC, but the fighter signed an extended contract with Strikeforce and dashed those plans. Melendez has gone on record saying that he is happy at Strikeforce and simply changed his goals in order to stay with the promotion. The downside for a fighter like Melendez, who wanted to prove himself the best lightweight fighter in the world, is the level of competition he would get at Strikeforce. Melendez says, it does not matter to him, as long as it is someone new : “Pat (Healy) is a guy that is pretty deserving, it’s just hard to say that I am fighting a top ten guy. I think he’s a tough dude. The thing I like about him is that he is new blood. He is a different style and a different look for me and I get to work on different things and get to show skills in different areas. Just fighting new blood is exciting for me at this point. That would motivate me more than the last fight.”
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker alluded to this in an interview this morning with Ariel Helwani: “We’re going to take a look at Pat Healy next. By the time Gilbert fights again, either we’re going to sign somebody to come in and fight him or we’re going to take another look at Pat and see if he’s the right guy.”
Another prospect may be former Bellator lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez. Although Melendez does not think such a fight will materialize: “Yeah, Eddie is someone that I have respected for a long time and I would definitely welcome that. But you know, as much as I try to get excited for these and try to make these things happen, right now, I am trying not to get involved in that. I really don’t have that much say. I just let the promoters do it and hey, the power of the media, maybe you guys can help me out with that and the fans can make demands. But someone like Eddie would definitely interest me and definitely would motivate me. It’s nothing I am going to try to push for or waist my time over, but anything would be cool. I am up for whomever right now. I want to stay busy and fight for my fans, fight for my team and fight for my family, so it doesn’t matter who, I will take whoever right now.”
Coker seemed to echo this as well in his interview with Helwani: “If he is a free agent and he is really free of any contractual relations, make the call. Eddie, come on down, let’s put the Melendez fight together.”
So which one will it be? Of the two listed, the most likely seems to be Pat Healy as he is a player in Strikeforce already. It has been said that Alvarez will look to go with the UFC immediately, once clear of his Bellator contract, but the fight game can be funny. It would not be a complete shock to see Strikeforce or Showtime ante up for a short term contract with Alvarez.