Even though Gilbert Melendez is the Strikeforce lightweight champion, not many people would consider him a top five fighter in the 155-pound division. Enter Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, who is widely considered the second best lightweight behind BJ Penn.
Aoki will be making his U.S. debut on Saturday night at “Strikeforce: Nashville,” which will be broadcast on CBS. The Japanese star is best known for the tights that he wears during his fights, but his ground game is just as flamboyant.
Melendez understands how good his opponent and challenger on Saturday night really is, but believes that he’ll be prepared to successfully defend his title.
“You can’t just prepare for three months for a fighter. People that don’t know Jiu-Jitsu are going to fight Shinya Aoki and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to train Jiu-Jitsu for three months,'” Melendez told 5thRound.com in an exclusive interview. “I’ve been training hard for seven or eight years. I’ve been training with the Diaz boys. I’ve seen this rubber guard. I’ve seen it for years.”
After his loss to Josh Thomson at “Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson” back in June of 2008, the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu trained fighter admitted that he needed to reassess and dedicate himself to MMA.
“I had to make that decision. Did I want to run this division or do I want to just be #2 in the world and that’s that? Do I make a career out of this or do I do this for fun?” Melendez asked himself.
“I decided that I wanted to be the best. I want to make a career out of it and I want to make some money out of it.”
Now after avenging one of his two career losses and regaining the Strikeforce lightweight strap, Melendez will have an opportunity to catapult himself into the upper echelon of lightweight scrappers, one that has newly crowned Frankie Edgar at the top.
“El Nino” believes he has the right game to knock Aoki off his perch and solidify his position as one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world.
“I think Shinya’s a tough, amazing fighter and I think he has some holes in his game. I have some holes in my game and we’re going to matchup perfectly, but it’s a perfect fight for Gilbert Melendez to see a 2ndRound knockout,” Melendez confidently predicted.
Make sure to check back to 5thRound.com later on today to watch our exclusive interview with the current Strikeforce lightweight champion.