‘El Nino’ not about to fly under the radar for much longer ahead of UFC on Fox.
Gilbert Melendez is widely regarded as one of the best lightweight mixed martial artists in the world.
And now he is ready to own what he believes he deserves as he faces current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox this weekend.
Testament to his skill and record, Melendez will make his promotional debut in a main event for one of the prized straps as part of the UFC.
Through a 23 professional fight career, the fighter nicknamed El Nino, has dispatched several impressive opponents and it currently on a seven fight winning streak.
“I think I have paid my dues, so that’s why they give me that respct in and out of the cage,” Melendez said.
“I believe it was inevitable that I was going to come to this point, I’ve always had a goal to be the number one fighter in the world, or to find out if I am.
“This is the final step to me proving or finding out if I’m the number one fighter in the world.”
The 31-year-old brings with him an impressive resume from Strikeforce having won that company’s lightweight title tiwce, along with racking up the most title bouts (10), most title defences (six), most consecutive championship defences (four) and the most wins in Strikeforce history with 11.
“I actually do a feel added pressure, I have done so much in my career, so if I lose it’s not such a big deal,” Melendez said of stepping into the harsh glare of the UFC.
“But in a weird way it feels like my first fight.
“I’ll take the champ any day of the week, there doesn’t need to be any kind of prep needed.
“There’s nothing I’m trying to prove to the UFC fans, as much as I’m trying to win them over.
“I want them to be fans of me, I’m coming to finish the fight.”
Henderson is coming off a year in the UFC that will be hard to top, even by his lofty standards and skill-set.
After beating Frankie Edgar to claim the lightweight title, he went on to defend the title twice, once in a rematch against Edgar and again when he faced Nate Diaz.
Thanks to those three wins, Henderson picked up six Fighter of the Year awards from various mixed martial arts media outlets.
“I want to be the best fighter on the planet, pound-for-pound, no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Henderson said.
“Gil has been considered one of the best for a long time, but I’d like to think I am the best.
“We’re going to meet in the Octagon, he’s going to walk forward, I’m going to walk forward, El Nino versus Smooth, and we’re going to find out who really is the best.
“But I’m not leaving the Octagon without my hand being raised.”