I wanted to take this Kommandment in a different direction. Instead of speaking on a controversial matter within the sport or breaking down a particular fight card, I wanted to give an ode to a fighter who I truly think deserves it. He has a fight coming up later this month and he is the consummate professional. That fighter is Gilbert Melendez. At one point, I didn't think he got the credit he deserved, but now I think he gets the credit he deserves. I think on Sherdog, he's ranked #1 and I think MMA Weekly has him ranked #3, so I think he's broke that barrier of being recognized. What he doesn't get is the spotlight.
I don't think there is enough spotlight out here because he fights for Strikeforce and not the UFC. A lot of people believe that until you have fought in the UFC, you're not the top dog. I think in his case, it's more of the spotlight and him not being able to build his name outside of the hardcore base. But he's defending his title on September 29th against Pat Healy and he fights the people that they put in front of him. If they put somebody else in front of him, then he would fight somebody else. He doesn't get to choose who he fights. The truth of the matter is in MMA, the fighter has some say, but ultimately it's up to the promoter who they are gonna fight because the structure is different from boxing where a promoter signs a whole bunch of lightweights and they have some internal progression and the sanctioning bodies rank these guys and there is a ladder to be climbed as well. In MMA, whoever moves up into that contingency is the guy who Gilbert will have to face as long as he is the champion in Strikeforce. I don't know that he has much of a choice.
That's just how this industry is built. You hear guys voice their opinions as to who they want to fight and don't want to fight, but ultimately, they end up fighting who they tell them to fight. Sometimes you will see a fighter say, "I don't want to fight this guy; I want to fight that guy because I think that guy deserves it more." And if that fight makes more sense, you will get a promoter who will jump on that bandwagon and be like, "That's what the fans asked for and that's what they get." That's bullshit. It's just that that fight made more sense. So Gil is going to fight Pat Healy and then they will either bring somebody else in to Strikeforce or sign some prospect, get him a fight, and then have them fight Gil. Or they might promote from within. They have the kid who is fighting Josh Thomson; his name is Caros Fodor, he knocked out Wilcox and now he's going to fight Thomson. I think that is a good test for him and if he ends up beating Thomson, he might end up fighting for a title or whatever, but I don't think it's going to be up to Gil much.
From a skillset standpoint, I think Gilbert Melendez can compete with any lightweight in the world. I call Gilbert Melendez the Barry Sanders of MMA because he's great at what he does, but he's just part of a team that's not going to get anywhere. It's the same situation Barry Sanders was in when he was with the Lions. He could run and break all of the records and get us all excited to watch, but he was just part of a team that wasn't going to go anywhere. I think he just wanted out of that organization not because he didn't like the team, but he wanted to compete for a ring. That's what Gil's situation is. Gil wants to go to the UFC not because it's the UFC, but because that's supposed to be the granddaddy of the sport and that's where the best guys are supposedly fighting and he wants to be able to prove to the fans that he belongs with the elite and that he can hang with any one of them and get the title. So I think it's more of a personal thing.
You look at it from a business standpoint and you look at it from an achievement standpoint. From a business standpoint, Gilbert Melendez is making a lot of money fighting in Strikeforce; a lot of money. If you look at fighting from an achievement standpoint, which doesn't necessarily equal to what's right business-wise, he wants to go to the UFC and capture that title so he can know that he's been to the top and he's fought the top guys and he beat 'em. And that's the dilemma that he's in and I think he's slowly found peace in what's going on. It's like, "I'm here and I will just keep beating people."
From a motivational standpoint and people wondering if he could stay motivated competing in Strikeforce, that's the challenge of being a champion and that's what separates champions from just good fighters. You have to find that motivating factor. You have to find whatever it is that's going to motivate you to go out there and win, and defending your title should be motivating enough. If you believe this guy is not worthy of fighting you, then guess what, get him out of there soon. You don't get paid by the round, so go in there and finish him quickly and show the guy doesn't belong here. One way of showing who belongs to fight you and who doesn't is by how you fight. If you believe this guy is not worthy of fighting you, then you prove it to people by the way you fight that guy.
I think one of the guys that I always thought speaks with his actions is Anderson Silva. And sometimes he makes statements that people don't fully appreciate in the manner in which he makes them. If you appreciate his message, then you would appreciate the delivery. When Anderson fought Demian Maia, a lot of people criticized him because he was dancing around and doing this and doing that. To me, it was the ultimate way to make a statement. It was like, "I could beat his ass without even trying. I'm in here dancing and he still can't do nothing to me." And after the fight was over, Demain Maia looked like he had been beaten by 20 people with baseball bats and Anderson Silva didn't have a scratch on him. Like I said, a lot of fans gave him a lot of criticism for it, and Dana was pissed, but me as a fan, I enjoyed it. I was like, "What a way to make a statement." Like, "Really, I'm going to fight this guy for my title? Are you kidding me?"
So different people have different ways of making statements, and bottom line is if you feel a guy don't belong there, then you fight him like he doesn't belong there. At the end of the day, as a champion, that's what you do; you defend your title against those people who they put in front of you and if that's not your motivation, then maybe you shouldn't be a champion, but I don't think that will ever be a problem for Gil. Pat Healy is a lot different than Masvidal and Thomson, and stylistically, I think Gil will match up perfectly against Pat Healy. As long as he keeps him at arm's length and keeps him away from his feet and he keeps moving, I think he will tear Healy apart. I actually could see him knocking Pat Healy out probably within the first 3 rounds. Stylistically, it's a perfect matchup for him.
In my eyes, if Gilbert Melendez never competes in the UFC, it doesn't hurt his legacy or his accomplishments at all, but I think in a lot of the fans eyes, yes, it does, but in my eyes, no. I think as powerful of a machine as the UFC has created through their PR and convincing every fan that the only way you could be considered the best is if you have captured the UFC title, there will always be this "what if" factor. How would he do against this guy? What if he was in the UFC instead of Strikeforce? So for Gil's sake and his peace of mind, I hope he gets to fight for the UFC and he will get a chance to capture the title and really retire with an exclamation mark. But in my eyes, no, because I value fighters' achievements under the circumstances in which are presented to them, and Gilbert Melendez is defending his title now for the 5th time.
If he goes on to retire from Strikeforce as an undefeated champion, then I think he will have accomplished everything that a fighter could accomplish in the medium in which he was present. He has 2 losses on his record. He lost to Josh Thomson and he lost to Kawajiri, and he avenged both of those losses, and since then, he has defeated everybody they have put in front of him. If he continues to do that and that's going to be the end of his career, then like I said, in my eyes, he has achieved greatness in the medium in which he fought. In the eyes of a lot of people, he probably wouldn't, but that's the same people who think Fedor is a bum, so it's a simple question to me. Was Barry Sanders a great running back? Is Dan Marino considered a great quarterback? Can anyone question the fact that he was a great quarterback? Neither of those guys have a ring, but you can't deny their accomplishments or their greatness.