Two-time Strikeforce lightweight champion (155 pounds) Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (18-2) has signed a new, multi-year agreement with the San Jose, California-based mixed martial arts promotion.
“Strikeforce is my home, they’ve always been like family to me and I’m looking forward to continuing my career with them,” said the 5-foot-9, 27-year-old protégé of Jiu-Jitsu master Cesar Gracie and Muay Thai legend Jongsanan Fairtex. “There are a lot of great fights out there for me – lots of challenges. I can’t wait to get back into the cage, do my thing and show the world that I’m still at the top of my game.’
Universally recognized as one of the top 155-pounders in the world, Melendez has won four in a row and five of six.
Melendez of San Francisco, by way of Santa Ana, California, last fought on April 17, 2010, retaining his belt with a dominant five-round decision over Japanese superstar Shinya Aoki in Nashville, Tennessee, that aired live on The CBS Television Network.
The one-sided triumph over the highly regarded Aoki came in Melendez’s first title defense since regaining his crown with a hard-fought five-round unanimous decision over the fighter that had dethroned him, Josh Thomson, on Dec. 19, 2009, at HP Pavilion San Jose, California.
Melendez, who turned pro on Oct. 18, 2002 and won his initial 13 starts, owns other notable victories over MMA standouts Aoki, Clay Guida andTatsuya Kawajiri. Melendez captured his interim lightweight belt with a second-round knockout (punches) over Rodrigo Damm on April 11, 2009, in San Jose.
“I’m healthy again and excited about fighting again real soon,’’ the personable, charismatic Melendez said. “It doesn’t matter who I fight. I just want to get back in there and rip.’’