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El Ni?o proved to be a devastating storm many years back, and this El Ni?o will be just as devastating. Gilbert ?El Ni?o? Melendez will make his long awaited return to the MMA world after a nine month layoff due to Zuffa?s purchase of Melendez?s former employer, Pride FC.
Melendez is set to make his Strikeforce debut on Saturday facing Tetsuji Kato at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, CA.
In Melendez?s young, yet successful MMA career, he has compiled a perfect 12-0 record with stunning victories in Pride, including his last instant classic bout against perennial top ten fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri.
?I?m very excited,? Melendez told . ?Even though I wasn?t fighting, I didn?t take any time off. It?s like I?ve been working for free. I?ve been training so hard and helping my buddies get ready for fights. It feels good that my hard work is going to pay off.?
Many former Pride fighters have been sitting idle since Pride was sold, seeking the best opportunity possible. This Cesar Gracie trained fighter has been patient while waiting to see where his future would lead.
?I basically played the waiting game with the Pride thing,? stated Melendez. ?[I] had a lot of faith in them that it would come around and get things together and it didn?t work out.?
In the meantime, Melendez will happily fight for Strikeforce, but don?t expect to see him there for long. He understands that you can?t fight forever and at the end of the day it is about getting paid. And as everyone knows, the UFC is the MMA monopoly for exposure.
?There?s a chance I could end up anywhere,? said Melendez about a possible deal with the UFC. ?It?s a sport and I fight for the love, but it?s also a business and I?m trying to make a career out of it and a life out of it.
?I really want to fight (Sean) Sherk. It?s a big thing for me to fight Sherk. Maybe I could talk to Dana White or he could give me that call when that time comes and we?ll see what happens.?
However, Melendez knows that he has to take things step by step, even if he is fighting a lesser opponent. Especially given the string of upsets this past year in MMA, and most recently at UFC 76 where upsets were the norm. Don?t expect for Melendez to fall victim to what others have experienced.
?I get extra motivated because I hear people say ?oh, you?re going to walk through this guy? which I never, ever think that,? said Melendez about his opponent. ?I need to make sure that I don?t think that, that I don?t underestimate him.?
The storm is coming and is about to come down on Kato.
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