Gilbert Melendez hasn’t fought in over a year, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting a lightweight title shot against Anthony Pettis this Saturday at UFC 181 in Las Vegas.
Still, doesn’t Melendez’s time off hurt him?
“It hurts the pocket book,” the 32-year-old Santa Ana, Calif., native joked on Ferrall on the Bench. “I like to fight twice a year. I wish I could have fought earlier in the summer time, but it’s all right, man. The time is here and I’ve got a fight now. It does mess a little bit with your training, but I feel like I got it under control and I was able to stay busy doing other things, so it’s okay.”
The last time Melendez had a long layoff, he lost to Benson Henderson in an extremely controversial split decision at UFC on Fox 7 in April 2013
“It was tough losing that one to Benson, but I was definitely looking forward to scoring a new deal with the UFC and getting another shot at the title and (facing) Anthony Pettis,” Melendez said. “I like that matchup. I was all for it. I was like, ‘Heck yeah, another shot at the title right away. Heck yeah, I’ll take it.’”
In his second UFC fight, Melendez destroyed Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 in October 2013, winning a unanimous decision. Scott Ferrall asked Melendez if he’s ever beaten somebody that badly.
“No, man,” Melendez said. “No, I have not. Even if I have, usually they’re done. They can’t handle it. That’s what I did with that guy. I was like, ‘All right, third round, I got some gas in the tank. I’m going to finish him.’ I hit him hard, man. I was like, ‘That’s all I got.’ This guy would not go down. He would have to be one of the craziest guys I ever fought. I felt like I was fighting a zombie from The Walking Dead or something.”
Melendez now shifts his attention to Pettis, who is also coming off a long layoff. Pettis, who hasn’t found since beating Henderson for the belt at UFC 164 in August 2013, was supposed to defend his title last December against Josh Thomson but pulled out of the fight due to a knee injury.
The 27-year-old Pettis had been very respectful of Melendez in recent months but has since been talking a lot of trash. What changed?
“That’s what I was wondering, too,” Melendez said. “All of a sudden he’s talking smack and (being) real disrespectful. I respect his fighting skills a lot and underestimating me is a big mistake. Saying you’re going to finish me with your first combo, big mistake. Saying you’re going to finish me in one round, big mistake. I can’t wait to kick his butt in the first round and whisper in his ear and let him know he’s in for a long night. He should leave the trash-talking to Floyd Mayweather – because he’s not very good at it.”