This year marked Gilbert Melendez's 40th birthday; he hasn't competed in a bout in over three years. It's unlikely that the former Strikeforce lightweight champion and two-time UFC title challenger will return to the cage anytime soon, but he wouldn't rule out a return either.
“I will always be a fighter, and I try to be as optimal as possible. 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,” Melendez said.
“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.”
After the merger between Strikeforce and the UFC, he switched organizations and competed for the UFC championship against the reigning champion, Benson Henderson, but ultimately lost by split decision. After earning a bonus with a decision victory against Diego Sanchez, he was granted a rematch for a shot at the UFC championship against Anthony Pettis, but Pettis submitted him in the second round. Melendez has fought 30 times in MMA, and Pettis is the only one who has ever defeated him.
However, after losing to Pettis, Melendez suffered five consecutive defeats and was subsequently released from the UFC after losing to Arnold Allen.
These days, he's not just a fixture in the announcing booth for LFA broadcasts, but he also runs gyms and trains the next generation of fighters. If this is the end of his boxing career, he seems to be fine with it.
“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.”
However, he wouldn't be the first boxer to put up the gloves and then be persuaded to return at a later date.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has a promotion out there with Eagle FC, and his previous boss at Strikeforce, Scott Coker, is the president of Bellator.
“I love fighting, and if I were to fight (again) … Eagle FC, great organization. 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.