Gilbert Melendez in 2009, at the weigh-in before the Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg event.
April 12, 1982 |
Santa Ana, California, United States
|Other names||El Niño|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
|Weight||155 lb (70 kg; 11 st 1 lb)|
|Reach||73.0 in (185 cm)|
|Style||Boxing, Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu|
|Fighting out of||San Francisco, California, United States|
|Team||Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
El Niño Sports
|Rank||Black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Cesar Gracie|
|Mixed martial arts record|
|Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog|
Gilbert "El Niño" Melendez (born April 12, 1982) is an American mixed martial artist who has fought at Featherweight and currently fights at Lightweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He is a two-time Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and a former WEC Lightweight Champion. He also competed in PRIDE FC, Shooto, and Rumble on the Rock. Melendez holds the distinction of being one of a select group of fighters who have ever been ranked #1 in the world in two weight classes in MMA, among the likes of Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Kazushi Sakuraba, BJ Penn, and Conor McGregor.
Melendez was nicknamed after the infamous El Niño storm that wreaks havoc across the Pacific Rim. It was given to him by a Japanese broadcaster describing his fight-style and the manner in which he stormed through the Shooto Featherweight division.
Melendez is from Santa Ana, California, and wrestled at Santa Ana High School. Melendez always enjoyed combat sports and competition, but did not start training in MMA until after college when he was introduced to the sport by his good friend and MMA fighter Jake Shields. Melendez attended San Francisco State University and was studying in liberal arts, he anticipated becoming a teacher but did not finish his college education and get a degree, on account of training for MMA and working outside of college. He has stated that someday he plans on finishing his college education. Before becoming a professional fighter, he worked as a waiter and he also had a job at a Fairtex gear shop, which would later be one of his sponsors.
Mixed martial arts career
Melendez made his debut in the World Extreme Cagefighting and started off his career dominating his opponents, winning his first three career fights all by knockout due to punches before receiving an opportunity to fight for the first WEC Lightweight Championship against fan-favorite Olaf Alfonso at WEC 10. Melendez won the bout by TKO due to punches and became the first WEC Lightweight Champion. Two fights later, Melendez, still undefeated, made his debut in Japan's Shooto against Hiroyuki Takaya, which Melendez won by unanimous decision. He followed this up with two more TKO wins in Shooto to bring his record to 8-0 before making his Strikeforce debut against Harris Sarmiento, which Melendez won after his opponent tapped out due to punches received.
Melendez won the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship from future UFC veteran Clay Guida by a split decision on June 9, 2006.
Melendez then made his debut in PRIDE FC at PRIDE Bushido 12, winning by unanimous decision. In his next fight for the organization he faced then Shooto Lightweight Champion Tatsuya Kawajiri. Melendez won again by unanimous decision. He returned to Strikeforce to fight Tetsuji Kato in a non-title bout, and won his third straight fight by a unanimous decision.
Melendez then faced Mitsuhiro Ishida at the Yarennoka! event on New Year's Eve in 2007 at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. Melendez received his first career loss against the Japanese fighter by unanimous decision.
Melendez held the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship belt for two years before losing it on June 27, 2008 to Josh Thomson by unanimous decision (50–45, 50–45, 50–45) at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson.
On August 15, 2009, Melendez was again set to rematch Josh Thomson at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg but Thomson was not cleared to fight, due to lingering problems with his leg. Mitsuhiro Ishida was selected to replace Thomson in what became Melendez' first Interim title defense.
On December 19, 2009, Melendez fought Josh Thomson to unify the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship belts. Melendez won the fight via unanimous decision to become the Strikeforce Lightweight Champion. With the win he also avenged the second of his only two losses to date.
A rematch between Melendez and Tatsuya Kawajiri took take place on April 9, 2011 at Strikeforce 33 in April. Melendez dominated his opponent showing excellent striking, knocking down Kawajiri with a right hand near the beginning of the fight. Melendez then again knocked down Kawajiri with a combination of knees to the body and a right hook followed by a right uppercut. The beginning of the end came when Melendez sprawled one of Kawajiri's takedowns and then began landing short left hands which knocked Kawajiri down into half-guard where Melendez began landing vicious right elbows before the referee stopped the fight declaring Melendez the winner by TKO 3:14 into the first round.
Melendez faced Jorge Masvidal next. UFC president Dana White briefly put the bout in question when he revealed to reporters that he was working to bring Melendez into the UFC fold "ASAP" with the possibility of Melendez entering with an immediate shot at the belt. Melendez eventually defended his title against challenger Jorge Masvidal at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
Melendez took on Josh Thomson in a rubber match for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier in San Jose, California on May 19, 2012. He won the fight via split decision. Fans did not agree with the decision and Josh Thomson was visibly disappointed by the decision. Booing immediately followed the decision and continuously throughout Melendez's post fight interview. Thomson, although not pleased with the decision, showed class in defeat by asking the crowd to stop booing and support the local fighter.
Melendez was expected to face Pat Healy for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship on September 29, 2012 in Sacramento, California. It was announced on September 22, 2012 that Melendez suffered an injury and had to withdraw from the fight. Due to Melendez' injury, Showtime opted not to air the card without the main event, thus causing Strikeforce to cancel the card becoming the second MMA card cancelled within a month under the Zuffa organization.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
The Strikeforce promotion was dissolved into the UFC by parent company Zuffa on January 12, 2013. Melendez received an immediate UFC title shot and made his promotional debut against Benson Henderson on April 20, 2013 at UFC on Fox 7. Melendez lost a split decision in a closely contested bout.
In his second UFC fight, Melendez faced Diego Sanchez on October 19, 2013 at UFC 166. He won the fight via unanimous decision. The win also earned him his first Fight of the Night award. On UFC.com Joe Rogan called the brawl between Melendez and Sanchez the best he's ever seen.
After negotiating with the UFC for his new contract, there was speculation that Melendez may sign with Bellator. In the process, Melendez also got an offer from World Series of Fighting. He then agreed to sign with Bellator, but the UFC had the right to match their offer. Melendez ultimately re-signed with the UFC after he was given the opportunity to serve as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 20, opposite UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis, the two would face each other at UFC 181 on December 6, 2014. He lost the fight via guillotine choke in the second round.
Melendez was tabbed as a short notice replacement to face Al Iaquinta on July 15, 2015 at UFC Fight Night 71, taking the place of Bobby Green. However, Melendez was removed from the card on July 6 after it was revealed that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs after his previous fight at UFC 188. In addition, Melendez has been suspended for one year from the date of the bout for violation of the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy.
Melendez and his wife Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez  have a daughter born August 8, 2010. Keri Anne is a Muay Thai fighter with a 3-1 record as a pro (Muay Thai and Kickboxing). She also has a knockout win as an MMA fighter.
Film and television
Melendez starred alongside teammates Jake Shields and the Diaz brothers in the award-winning mixed martial arts documentary Fight Life, the film is directed by James Z. Feng and produced by RiLL Films, it was released in 2013.
He also has provided commentary and analysis for ESPN before each Pay Per View.
Championships and accomplishments
- Strikeforce Lightweight Championship (Two times; last)
- Five successful title defenses
- Interim Strikeforce Lightweight Championship (One time)
- One successful title defense
- Most championship bouts in Strikeforce history (10)
- Most successful title defenses in Strikeforce history (6)
- Most consecutive title defenses in Strikeforce history (4)
- Most wins in Strikeforce history (11)
- Most significant strikes landed in Strikeforce history (749)
- Ultimate Fighting Championship
- World Extreme Cagefighting
- WEC Lightweight Championship (One time; first)
- International Fighting Championships
- IFC Night of Warriors Amateur Tournament Winner
- Inside MMA
- 2013 Fight of the Year Bazzie Award vs. Diego Sanchez on October 19
- Sports Illustrated
- 2009 Round of the Year vs. Josh Thomson on December 19; Round 5
- 2006 Lightweight of the Year 
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
Mixed martial arts record
|Professional record breakdown|
|28 matches||22 wins||6 losses|
|Loss||22–6||Edson Barboza||Decision (unanimous)||UFC on Fox: Holm vs. Shevchenko||July 23, 2016||3||5:00||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Loss||22–5||Eddie Alvarez||Decision (split)||UFC 188||June 13, 2015||3||5:00||Mexico City, Mexico||Melendez tested positive for exogenous origin of testosterone metabolites in a post-fight drug test.|
|Loss||22–4||Anthony Pettis||Submission (guillotine choke)||UFC 181||December 6, 2014||2||1:53||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States||For the UFC Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||22–3||Diego Sanchez||Decision (unanimous)||UFC 166||October 19, 2013||3||5:00||Houston, Texas, United States||Fight of the Night.|
|Loss||21–3||Benson Henderson||Decision (split)||UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez||April 20, 2013||5||5:00||San Jose, California, United States||For the UFC Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||21–2||Josh Thomson||Decision (split)||Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier||May 19, 2012||5||5:00||San Jose, California, United States||Defended the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||20–2||Jorge Masvidal||Decision (unanimous)||Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal||December 17, 2011||5||5:00||San Diego, California, United States||Defended the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||19–2||Tatsuya Kawajiri||TKO (elbows)||Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley||April 9, 2011||1||3:14||San Diego, California, United States||Defended the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||18–2||Shinya Aoki||Decision (unanimous)||Strikeforce: Nashville||April 17, 2010||5||5:00||Nashville, Tennessee, United States||Defended the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||17–2||Josh Thomson||Decision (unanimous)||Strikeforce: Evolution||December 19, 2009||5||5:00||San Jose, California, United States||Won and Unified the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||16–2||Mitsuhiro Ishida||TKO (punches)||Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg||August 15, 2009||3||3:56||San Jose, California, United States||Defended the Interim Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||15–2||Rodrigo Damm||KO (punches)||Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz||April 11, 2009||2||2:02||San Jose, California, United States||Won the Interim Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Loss||14–2||Josh Thomson||Decision (unanimous)||Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson||June 27, 2008||5||5:00||San Jose, California, United States||Lost the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||14–1||Gabe Lemley||TKO (punches)||Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Le||March 29, 2008||2||2:18||San Jose, California, United States||Defended the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Loss||13–1||Mitsuhiro Ishida||Decision (unanimous)||Yarennoka!||December 31, 2007||2||5:00||Saitama, Japan|
|Win||13–0||Tetsuji Kato||Decision (unanimous)||Strikeforce: Playboy Mansion||September 29, 2007||3||5:00||Beverly Hills, California, United States||Non-title bout.|
|Win||12–0||Tatsuya Kawajiri||Decision (unanimous)||PRIDE FC: Shockwave 2006||December 31, 2006||2||5:00||Saitama, Japan|
|Win||11–0||Nobuhiro Obiya||Decision (unanimous)||Pride - Bushido 12||August 26, 2006||2||5:00||Nagoya, Japan|
|Win||10–0||Clay Guida||Decision (split)||Strikeforce: Revenge||June 9, 2006||5||5:00||San Jose, California, United States||Won the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||9–0||Harris Sarmiento||Submission (punches)||Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie||March 10, 2006||2||0:44||San Jose, California, United States|
|Win||8–0||Rumina Sato||TKO (doctor stoppage)||Shooto: Alive Road||August 20, 2005||1||1:32||Yokohama, Japan||Shooto Lightweight (143 lb) bout.|
|Win||7–0||Naoya Uematsu||TKO (doctor stoppage)||Shooto: 5/4 in Korakuen Hall||May 4, 2005||2||4:30||Tokyo, Japan||Shooto Lightweight (143 lb) bout.|
|Win||6–0||Hiroyuki Takaya||Decision (unanimous)||Shooto: Year End Show 2004||December 14, 2004||3||5:00||Tokyo, Japan||Shooto Lightweight (143 lb) bout.|
|Win||5–0||Kaynan Kaku||TKO (punches)||Rumble on the Rock 6||November 20, 2004||2||3:58||Honolulu, Hawaii, United States|
|Win||4–0||Olaf Alfonso||TKO (punches)||WEC 10||May 21, 2004||3||4:54||Lemoore, California, United States||Won inaugural WEC Lightweight Championship.|
|Win||3–0||Stephen Palling||TKO (punches)||Rumble on the Rock 4||October 10, 2003||2||4:59||Honolulu, Hawaii, United States||Featherweight bout.|
|Win||2–0||Jeff Hougland||TKO (punches)||WEC 6||March 27, 2003||2||2:05||Lemoore, California, United States|
|Win||1–0||Greg Quan||TKO (punches)||WEC 5||October 18, 2002||1||4:37||Lemoore, California, United States|
- "Fight Card - UFC 188 Velasquez vs. Werdum". UFC.com. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
- E. Spencer Kyte (June 6, 2014). "Melendez awarded black belt". Fox Sports.
- "MMAFighting.com - MMAFighting.net Top 10 Fighters Rankings (7.0)". 2006-06-14. Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
- "MMA Top 10 Rankings: Gilbert Melendez Reaches The Top (UPDATED)". MMAWeekly.com”/><meta property=. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
- "MMA Spot - On The Spot ~ Gilbert Melendez". mmaspot.com. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
- "Gilbert Melendez Santa Ana High wrestler". Retrieved 2014-01-01.
- "http://www.fiveknuckles.com/mma-news/Gilbert-Melendez-vs-Josh-Thomson-confirmed-for-Strikeforce-Evolution-on-Dec-19.html". FiveKnuckles.com. Archived from the original on November 25, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2009. External link in
- "Aoki-Melendez Signed for April 17 Strikeforce". sherdog.com. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
- "Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez Defend April 9". sports.yahoo.com.com. 2011-03-01.
- Gene Mrosko (2012-09-24). "Gilbert Melendez injured, Strikeforce cancels Sept. 29 event in Sacramento". mmamania.com. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
- Damon Martin (2012-11-27). "Gilbert Melendez Out; Jorge Masvidal vs. Pat Healy Likely for Final Strikeforce Show". mmaweekly.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
- Mike Chiapetta (2013-01-14). "UFC on FOX 7 targeted for Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez lightweight title fight". mmafighting.com. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
- "UFC's Gilbert Melendez says he took 'foot off the gas' but thought he still won the fight three rounds to two.". mmajunkie.com. April 21, 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-04-24.
- Staff (July 4, 2013). "Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez added to UFC 166 in Houston". mmajunkie.com. Archived from the original on July 6, 2013. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- Staff. "UFC 166 bonuses: Melendez, Sanchez, Dodson and Ferguson win $60,000". MMAjunkie.com. Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2013-10-20.
- Matt Erickson. "Gilbert Melendez meets Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 170". MMAjunkie.com. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
- Mike Chiappetta. "Gilbert Melendez vs Khabib Nurmagomedov UFC 170 pairing scrapped". Foxsports.com. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
- "Bellator pulls stunner, sings top lightweight Gilbert Melendez". sports.yahoo.com. 2014-02-14.
- "Gilbert Melendez agrees to terms with Bellator, may leave UFC". bleacherreport.com. 2014-02-14.
- "Gilbert Melendez in contract dispute with UFC, WSOF offers him way out". cagepages.com. 2014-02-14.
- "Bellator agrees to terms with Gilbert Melendez, UFC holds right to match offer". mmafighting.com. 2014-02-14.
- "Melendez Signs With UFC; Set to Coach TUF 20 vs Pettis". TopMMANews.com. Retrieved 2014-02-23.
- "UFC matches Bellator offer, re-signs Gilbert Melendez". mmafighting.com. 2014-02-23.
- Staff (2015-02-23). "Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez co-headlines UFC 188 in Mexico City". MMAjunkie.com. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
- Dave Doyle (2015-06-14). "UFC 188 results: Eddie Alvarez edges Gilbert Melendez for first UFC win". mmafighting.com. Retrieved 2015-06-14.
- Brent Brookhouse (2015-06-17). "Gilbert Melendez in to face Al Iaquinta at UFC Fight Night 71". mmajunkie.com. Retrieved 2015-06-17.
- Brent Brookhouse (2015-07-06). "Gilbert Melendez fails UFC 188 post-fight drug test, pulled from UFC Fight Night 71 card". mmajunkie.com. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
- Hunter A. Homistek (2016-05-04). "Edson Barboza vs. Gilbert Melendez in the works for UFC on FOX 20 lineup". mmafighting.com. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
- Ben Fowlkes (2016-07-23). "UFC on FOX 20 results: Edson Barboza brutalizes Gilbert Melendez's leg on way to decision win". mmajunkie.com. Retrieved 2016-07-23.
- "Keri Anne Taylor is MMA Gilbert Melendez’s Girlfriend". fabwags.com. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
- "FIGHT! Life: Gilbert Melendez - Baby Girl (VIDEO)". Fightmagazine.com. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
- "Is there such a thing as a PPV blackout based on region?". FIGHTOPINION.com. 2010-08-09. Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- "Keri Anne Taylor Melendez - Awakening Fighter Profile". Awakening Fighters. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
- Fight Life: MMA Documentary
- SHERDOG.COM STAFF. "SHERDOG.COM’S POUND-FOR-POUND TOP 10". Sherdog.com. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
- Meltzer, Dave (January 27, 2014). "Jan 27 2014 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 2013 Annual awards issue, best in the world in numerous categories, plus all the news in pro-wrestling and MMA over the past week and more". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California: 22. ISSN 1083-9593.
- Martin, Damon (July 6, 2015). "Gilbert Melendez tests positive for banned substance, suspended one year". FOXSports.com. Retrieved July 17, 2016.
- Professional MMA record for Gilbert Melendez from Sherdog
- Official Pride Website
- Gilbert Melendez' Myspace
- MMA Freak Best of 2013 Awards
|Awards and achievements|
|New championship||1st WEC Lightweight Champion
May 21, 2004 – October 21, 2004
Melendez left WEC
Title next held byGabe Ruediger
|2nd Strikeforce Lightweight Champion
June 9, 2006 – June 27, 2008
|New championship||1st Strikeforce Interim Lightweight Champion
April 11, 2009 – December 19, 2009
|4th and final Strikeforce Lightweight Champion
December 19, 2009 – January 12, 2013
Strikeforce banner dissolved into UFC