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El Nino, A conversation with the champ Gilbert Melendez

| January 7, 2010 | Reply

gilbert melendez 293x300 El Nino, A conversation with the champ Gilbert MelendezI made the journey across the bay today and into San Francisco in search of the El Nino training center. Thank God I had a GPS because if you don’t see the name and address on the door your past it. As they say in the training center “if they really want to train here they’ll find it”. Well I found it (with a little help) and what I walked into was a small, close-knit gym with music blaring and several up-n-coming fighters training hard. El Nino training center is the gym of 2 time Strikeforce Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and he was nice enough to sit down with me to talk Strikeforce, UFC, the lightweight division and more.

When I sat down with Gilbert he quickly ask me how long I’d been doing the website and was I a longtime fan of MMA. I thought to myself who’s doing the interview here, but it was actually a great icebreaker that turned into a 10-minute bullshit conversation between Gilbert, Bobby Taylor (who I will talk about later) and myself. We started the interview and talked about his recent win over Thomson to avenge his loss and recapture the title. He was real happy to be the champ again but knows that at some point the two will likely step into the cage again to fight. He just hopes that it’s three or four fights down the road so they can move on with their careers a little. We talked how the two had trained together before their first fight but once the two fought that relationship was cut and I asked him what he though about teammates fighting teammates?

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At the Strikeforce: Evolution post fight press conference Gilbert talks about how he felt disrespected by not being ranked high in MMA rankings. I asked him why he thought that was the case and where he saw himself amongst the other lightweights. Being humble and a little hard on himself Gilbert thought his losses to Ishida and Thomson de-valued Strikeforce and their champs. He does think he should be ranked in the top ten though and considers himself right there with the elite 155 pounders. Other then BJ Penn who he claims “is on another level” Gilbert believes he’d defeat all the other lightweights in the world a good percentage of the time (note: Gilbert would fight BJ Penn too if given the chance). Looking ahead he doesn’t know what Strikeforce has in mind for his next fight but since they are co-promoting with Dream he said he’d love to fight Shinya Aoki, Eddie Alvarez or Joachim Hansen. Scott Coker make it happen!

While only 28 years old Melendez is a veteran in MMA having 19 fights and has fought in several organizations including Pride, WEC (before Zuffa), Shooto and Strikeforce. Melendez told me his Nickname “El Nino” was born while fighting in Japan for Shooto in 2005, One of the Japanese broadcasters during the fight had called him that and Cesar Gracie started calling him that, roughly translated El Nino means “the storm”. Melendez has talked numerous times before about how thankful he is to Scott Coker and Strikeforce so I asked him why he thinks so highly of Strikeforce and if he ever thinks he’d go to the UFC?

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It seems every time you see Gilbert you also see Jake Shields, as if they are attached at the hips. We all know that they train together a lot at Cesar Gracie but I wanted to know how and where they meet. Gilbert wrestled at SF state and his second year there Jake transferred and started hanging out with Gilbert looking for the parties. The two became friends and Shields introduced him to the Cesar Gracie fight team and cage fighting. There at the Cesar Gracie fight team the two trained and that’s where Gilbert meet the Diaz brothers Nick and Nate, who by the why get a bad rep according to Gilbert. Training with all those Jiu-Jitsu guys at Cesar Gracie I teased Gilbert a little having only one submission on his record and that’s via strikes. He agreed he didn’t have a submission game per say but does have some submissions he just hasn’t had the opportunity present itself yet to use it. He said he has a good rear naked choke and some top position submissions too just haven’t used them but you’ll see it at some pint. He does though think he’s got a strong Jiu-Jitsu game that he uses to get himself in position to strike, which he didn’t do to me thank God.

I had a great time talking with Gilbert and some of his other fighters at the gym including Bobby “The Bear” Taylor. Taylor is an up and coming fighter out of Ventura that meet Gilbert teaching at FSA jiu-jitsu while up here staying with a friend. Gilbert and Bobby were both wrestlers coming out of school and each originally lived in Southern California before moving up here. Gilbert calls Bobby a hard worker and thinks he is ready to make his own mark after training with himself, Jake Shields and the boys at El Nino Training center. Bobby will be fighting the 16th of this month in Santa Barbara for the California Fight Syndicate and will be one of the featured fights of the night. If you are down in that area be sure to check out the event and make sure to stay for Bobby’s fight. Bobby sat in on my interview with Gilbert and when we were done I asked Bobby a few questions. 

IMG 0995a 241x300 El Nino, A conversation with the champ Gilbert Melendez

Bobby what do you think of the El Nino training center and Gilbert?
“The guys here are real fighters without ego’s and good people, we are all close and we hang out.” “Gil is the man he has honestly done more for me then almost anybody else in my life. Best move I have ever made and I’d do anything for him.”

What weight class do you fight at?
“Right now I’m fighting at 170lbs, but I plan on getting down to eventually fight at 155lbs.” (This is crazy because that day after training he weighed in at 188lbs. but as he told me he “has a system to cutting the weight”)

Your first opponent dropped out and you know are waiting for a new one, how do you prepare for that?
“I’ve been training hard and the hardest part is training here with these guys the fights are nothing compared. I get pushed hard at practice and I see first hand what these guys go through. I feel I train harder then whomever I’m going to fight, more prepared and well rounded. I train with really good guys, better then many other camps.”

[Update: Bobby will be fighting Dion Ramirez (1-1)]

Again I want to thank Gilbert Melendez, Bobby Taylor and the guys over at the El Nino training center, let’s do it again sometime. 

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Tags: BJ Penn, BJJ, Bobby Taylor, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, California Fight Syndicate, Diego Sanchez, El Nino Training Center, Gilbert Melendez, Interview, Jake Shields, MMA, Nate Diaz, Nick Diaz, Randy Couture, Scott Coker, Strikeforce, UFC, WEC, Wrestling

Category: Exclusive, MMA, Strikeforce, UFC, WEC

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My brain child is MMAValor, something I had wanted to do for a long time and finally it’s here. Been an MMA fan since TUF season one (play catch up all the time) and the obsession started to grow like a weed and as the sport grows so does the love for the sport. I’m a jack of all trades, a very organized person that rides an emotional roller coaster daily.

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