There's almost no other way to put it: Here we go again.
Two months ahead of his title defense at Strikeforce's next card – and reportedly its last card – lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez has been sidelined again.
The news comes from Tatame, and UFC/Zuffa President Dana White said on a fan chat with the Montreal Gazette earlier in the day Friday that he believed Melendez was going to be off the January show.
Melendez (21-2 MMA, 11-1 SF) has been in this situation before. He was scheduled to defend his title against Pat Healy (28-16 MMA, 6-1 SF) in September in Sacramento. But when he injured his shoulder, Strikeforce canceled the card altogether when broadcast partner Showtime decided to not air the card without Melendez on it as its headliner.
And not long after that, Strikeforce's follow-up show, scheduled for Nov. 3 in Oklahoma City, also was scrapped when Frank Mir pulled out of a headlining bout with Daniel Cormier and co-main event middleweight champ Luke Rockhold also was sidelined.
The cancellation of back-to-back fight cards left fighters, fans and analysts wondering just what the future was for the promotion – and many speculated that the organization likely would fold, with select fighters being folded into the UFC.
But not long after the cancellation of the Nov. 3 show, Strikeforce and Showtime said a blockbuster card was being planned for January. And recently, details began to emerge of that show, which is scheduled for Jan. 12 in Oklahoma City at Chesapeake Energy Arena, site of the canceled Nov. 3 show.
Melendez again was to headline against Healy, with Rockhold vs. Lorenz Larkin in the co-main event and welterweight champ Nate Marquardt defending his belt for the first time against Tarec Saffiedine. Plus, Cormier is to meet Dion Staring in a heavyweight bout.
TMZ reported earlier this month that the event will be the last for Strikeforce, which would mean Melendez's career with the promotion is over.
Melendez trainer and coach Cesar Gracie told Tatame that the fighter will concentrate on moving over to the UFC.
"I think he never recovered from the shoulder injury and will not be able to fight in January," Gracie said. "He had a doctor's appointment this week and the doctor said that he will not be able to fight. We will focus on his recovery. With the end of (Strikeforce), he should migrate to the UFC."
Strikeforce and UFC officials could not immediately comment on Melendez's status. It is not known if Healy will remain on the card in some fashion. Without a Melendez-Healy headliner, the Rockhold-Larkin or Marquardt-Saffiedine title fights could move into the main event