For a time, Gilbert Melendez stood out as one of the best lightweights in the world. That was back when he was the dominant champion of Strikeforce’s lightweight division, and running through names like Josh Thomson, Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Jorge Masvidal. Today, however, the lightweight great has hit a bit of a rough patch.
After a strong start to his UFC career, which saw him give up a razor thin decision to then lightweight champion Benson Henderson, and defeat Diego Sanchez in one of the best fights ever, Melendez has stumbled onto a three-fight losing streak.
The first of these losses saw him give up an early lead to tap out to Anthony Pettis, failing his second attempt to capture UFC lightweight gold in the process. His next loss was a controversial split decision loss to Eddie Alvarez, a long-time rival who would go on to win the UFC lightweight title. His third and most recent loss occurred after he was suspended for a year for testing positive for “exogenous origin of testosterone metabolites.” This loss saw him soundly out-worked by deadly striker Edson Barboza.
With his status as a top-flight lightweight quickly dissipating, Melendez has announced plans to drop to the 145-pound featherweight division, where he hopes to find a fresh start. Though he cannot commit to this move 100% just yet, he is attempting to slim down with this goal in mind. Melendez explained this plan on a recent episode of MMA Junkie Radio.
“I want to confirm [the drop to featherweight],” he said. “Right now I’m still in a moment where I’m leaning up really good and I like the way things are going. I guess until I book a fight at 145, I can’t really confirm that, but yeah, that’s my goal. I’m really trying to slim up, I’m really trying to diet, I’m really trying to lose this fat around the belly a little bit more and really maximize my body’s potential. Once I get to that point, which should be in the next few weeks, I’ll be able to really jump and really make that clear decision. But yes that’s my goal, to make 145. That’s what I’m working on right now at this point.”
How do you think Gilbert Melendez will do at featherweight? Sound off, PENN Nation!
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/23/2017.