Lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez owns an impressive 17-2 professional record and will be riding a three-fight winning streak into tonight’s showdown with Japanese import Shinya Aoki at “Strikeforce: Nashville.”
Aoki is arguably MMA’s craftiest grappler, seemingly able to pull off submissions in the blink of an eye. However, Melendez has long been under the tutelage of Brazilian jiu jitsu guru Cesar Gracie, whose famed academy stockpiles BJJ black belt fighters like no other.
“I’ve been training [my jiu jitsu] 7-8 hard years. I’ve been training with [Nick and Nate Diaz],” Melendez told 5thRound.com of his extensive knowledge. “I’ve seen his rubber guard, I’ve seen it for years. It’s nothing new to me.”
What is relatively new to “El Nino” is the level of dedication he’s committed towards becoming the world’s top 155-pounder. Melendez knows that if he wants to sit amongst the division’s greats, he will have to continue his evolution as a mixed martial artist.
“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 [expletive] 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.”
The lightweight scrap will kick off a trio of championship bouts on the CBS broadcast. Strikeforce’s second primetime show starts tonight at 9PM ET/PT.
Please click the media player below to watch 5thRound.com’s exclusive interview with Gilbert Melendez: