Interim lightweight champion Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez is only hours away from defending his strap against Japanese sensation Mitsuhiro Ishida at tonight’s “Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg” event. Although it wasn’t the fight he was hoping for, it’s certainly a re-match that he wanted.
Two weeks ago, champion Josh Thomson was forced to pull out of their highly anticipated re-match because of complications stemming from a broken leg he suffered in April.
Getting hurt during training isn’t really a big deal, it happens all of the time. However, Melendenz was uspet that Thomson waited until the 11th-hour to pull out of the bout despite his injury having been rumored for some time.
“I was definitely a little frustrated when I started hearing rumors (that Josh Thomson may pull out),” Melendez told MMAJunkie.com. “I just wanted [Josh] to either commit and fight injured or commit and not fight because he’s injured. You can’t be like, ‘Maybe I’m going to fight you’ for three weeks.
“If you’re injured, it’s cool, man. But I know there was three weeks where I was just wondering if I was going to fight him or not. Ishida has known he’s going to be fighting me, but I’ve known I’m going to fight Ishida for (only) a week and a half.”
To his surprise, the organization was already announcing Thomson’s replacement before the dust had even settled on his exit.
“I have no problem with, ‘Hey, the guy just pulled out and we’ve got a replacement,'” Melendez said. “The day Josh pulled out, one second later Ishida was in. I was like, ‘That doesn’t really work that way.’ It doesn’t. It takes a couple of days, usually. So it’s a little fishy to me, and I’m a little bothered by that.”
Ishida, a one-time Strikeforce employee, is one of Japan’s most electrifying 155-pounders. He has won 12 of his last 14 scraps, including one over Melendez at “Yarennoka” on New Year’s Eve 2007.
With Thomson riding the pine, Melendez is ready to move on to Ishida, then come back to take on his former training partner. El Niño claims he is set to strike, and will be expecting his props because these storms are going to be violent.
“I didn’t train for nothing, and I’m ready to fight,” Melendez said. “I wish I could fight Ishida under different circumstances. I wish I could be dreaming about him for the last two months and training for a short, southpaw wrestler for the last two months. But in MMA, you train for every scenario, so I feel like I’m ready anyway.”
You can catch “Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg” LIVE tonight on Showtime beginning at 7:30PM PT/10:30PM ET.