Everybody deserves second chances, but not for the same mistakes.
Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, Gilbert Melendez, is a top ranked fighter in the mixed martial arts (MMA) 155-pound division. Number three, actually, according the USA Today MMA Nation Consensus Rankings. "El Nino" has tasted defeat only twice in 21 professional fights, and he's gone on to later avenge both those losses (Mitsuhiro Ishida and Josh Thomson), impressively.
Melendez is perhaps the most well-rounded lightweight in the world today -- there are few, if any, holes in his game. From striking to wrestling to Brazilian jiu-jitsu to endurance, the Santa Ana, Calif., fighter boasts tight all-around skills. He's also extremely likable, one of the more intelligent and respectable personalities in the sport today.
To date, he's done and said just about everything right. He hasn't called out champions from other promotions like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), taunted them with insults or screamed for the attention he rightly deserves as one of the best in the business.
Just win, baby. That's his shtick. And he's stuck to that script, for the most part, since he burst onto the scene to defeat Clay Guida for the Strikeforce lightweight belt back in 2006. He's patiently gone about his business, beating one opponent after the other and quietly moved up the ranks.
That quiet patience, finally, appears like it is about to pay big dividends. At least it should, anyway, at the time of this writing.
Melendez is currently under consideration to transfer to the UFC in the very near future. In fact, Strikeforce revealed yesterday that a "big announcement" that will impact the "immediate future" of Melendez is "coming soon." If he is indeed asked to jump ship, he'd follow in the footsteps of other Strikeforce champions such as Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson and (gasp) his good friend and training partner, Nick Diaz.
That's right, the same Nick Diaz who was supposed to headline a major "Champion vs. Champion" showdown at UFC 137 later this month opposite welterweight deity Georges St. Pierre. However, Diaz imploded and UFC President Dana White was forced to make a kneejerk decision and replace Diaz with Carlos Condit in the main event.
It was an odd twist of fate, considering Diaz was awarded an immediate title shot upon his Octagon return, while Condit -- a former 170-pound champion with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) -- was forced to work his way up the ladder when the promotion was folded into the UFC like Strikeforce ultimately will in short order.
Different circumstances, certainly, but with the recent Diaz debacle fresh in our minds, and the dissolution of Strikeforce looming, UFC matchmakers have another chance to get it right.
Melendez won't let them, the fans or even UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar down this time. He's better than that. He's patiently waited for his big break. And you can count on him to make the most of the opportunity.
This Cesar Gracie-trained fighter won't need a second chance to make a fine first impression.