Former two-time UFC title challenger and Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is “no longer focused” on fighting, but if the right opportunity emerged, he’d return to the cage.
“El Nino,” 40, hasn’t stepped inside the Octagon since his unanimous decision loss to Arnold Allen in July 2019. Melendez has lost his last five fights in a row and is 1-6 in the UFC since joining the promotion as the Strikeforce 155-pound champion in 2013.
He competed for UFC gold twice. Melendez received an instant-title fight against then-champ Benson Henderson when he came over to the promotion, and he lost the bout via split decision. After picking up an electric unanimous decision win against Diego Sanchez, he fought Anthony Pettis for the undisputed lightweight championship in 2014. Melendez was submitted via second-round guillotine choke, the only time he’s been finished in his 22-8 professional mixed martial arts career.
Melendez would then lose four bouts in a row, including his last two at 145 pounds. When speaking on MMA Junkie Radio, El Nino revealed his position on returning to fighting.
“I will always be a fighter, and I try to be as optimal as possible,” Melendez said via the outlet. “I know I’m moving on as a professional fighter. I’m no longer focused on being a prizefighter. I’m focusing on my gyms and producing athletes and staying in shape. But of course, it’s hard to completely hang it up. If there’s a great opportunity out there and it’s the right fight – I’m not into fighting youngsters who want to stick and move and kick my leg and run, but I do love fighting and I could definitely be enticed to come back. There’s that fight in me.”
Melendez Showed Interest in Fighting for Eagle FC
And if Melendez chooses to return, it may not be in the UFC. The MMA analyst hinted at his desire to compete under the Eagle Fighting Championship banner.
“I love fighting, and if I were to fight (again) … Eagle FC, great organization,” Melendez continued. “I think if there’s anyone who really promoted me well, it was Scott Coker. And I am interested in maybe even boxing – some of that stuff does interest me. And I do get hungry.”
Melendez Said the Time of His Life as a Prizefighter Is ‘Nearly Over’
Just because he’d be willing to return to active competition doesn’t mean Melendez isn’t aware that the clock is ticking. And he told MMA Junkie that at this point, training isn’t taking up his complete focus.
“I do recognize that time of my life is over, or damn nearly over,” Melendez said. “So I have been trying to move on and focus my energy in other places. My 100 percent focus isn’t my training. It was great when you could wake up, train, everyone takes care of you because you’re on this mission, you train again, and everyone takes care of you some more and they’re just supporting you along the way.
“Right now, it’s just like I’m getting my training in as much as possible and supporting everyone else and trying to run business and do a lot of other things.”