Gilbert Melendez looked well on his way to becoming a UFC fighter when Dana White made it known that he was interested in bringing “El Nino” into the 155-pound division.

However, as seems to be the case in MMA, changes happen. Now, with the recent deal between Strikeforce and Showtime complete, Melendez is set to become the face of the promotion, assuming he doesn’t slip up against Jorge Masvidal that is.

Melendez will defend his Strikeforce lightweight title against Masvidal Saturday night when the two collide on Showtime in the main event. Masvidal secured his championship opportunity with a victory over K.J. Noons earlier this year.

“The craziness was about nine and a half weeks out from my fight, and I can’t lie – you get a little excited and you get derailed,” said Melendez, in a recent interview with Strikeforce’s website about heading to the UFC. “But it lasted about two or three days, and it was a weekend. I had a day off anyway from training, and if anything, it was a positive thing. It’s nice to know that the main boss wants me to fight and thinks I’m one of the best out there, so at the end of the day, I take it as a positive. But in no way did I lose focus on Masvidal.”

Melendez is undefeated since a decision loss to Josh Thomson back in 2008. Since that time, he has avenged the Thomson loss and his only other career defeat at the hands of Mitsuhiro Ishida. Melendez has also stopped Shinya Aoki during his current five-fight win streak.

“I feel like I’ve always got respect from my peers, and I think a lot of real fans and the journalists have known. I think it’s more the common fan (that doesn’t know me),” Melendez said. “The common fans think I’m in the minor leagues because I’m not in the UFC. I need to be accepted by everybody, so that does feel good, and that’s what I’m going for.”


MMATraining Take: For Melendez, this means becoming the man in Strikeforce, something that could really help push him even further. If he continues to dominate, there is no denying a match with the UFC lightweight champion down the road, and it would have the appeal of being one of the biggest bouts ever.