"I'm excited to fight three five-minute rounds," Melendez recently told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "Initially after I lost, the first thing on my mind more than anything was, 'Heck yeah – 15 minutes, that's way easier.' I've been training for 25-minute fights my last 10 fights, and it's kind of tough on the body."
And because Melendez has indeed been in 10 straight title fights – going the full 25 minutes six times – he'll get a welcome training reprieve now, while trying to work his way back to where he wants to be, and that's back in another title fight.
The road back there for Melendez (21-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) starts against Diego Sanchez (24-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) in October at UFC 166 in Houston, a fight booking first reported by MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
That's a matchup Melendez thinks could get him in the title picture once again with a win.
"I think he has that mystique – he's a big name and he's a tough guy," Melendez said. "I think it'll be a good win for me. Of course you want to win the belt, but I'd like to just beat every 155-pounder out there. It's fresh for me. I'd love to fight (Donald) 'Cowboy' (Cerrone). I'd love to fight Gray (Maynard) and beat them all. (But Sanchez is) the first 'Ultimate Fighter' winner, he's been around the sport a long time and he's one of the most popular fighters out there."
Melendez won Strikeforce's 155-pound title in 2006 with a win over Clay Guida. After losing it to Josh Thomson two years later, he went on to win seven straight title fights before his loss to Henderson, a fight that had Strikeforce champ vs. UFC champ bragging rights implications.
But Melendez isn't thinking revenge against Henderson – even though many scoring the fight had it for him, not the champ. If Henderson loses the belt to Anthony Pettis next month, Melendez will fight whoever has the title.
"It doesn't really matter to me – I'm just kind of gunning for the title," he said. "I'm not like, 'Oh, I need to get Benson.' The goal now is to get the title, I think, and hopefully get that and beat everybody else. I think (two fights), or maybe in one (I can be back in a title fight). I think it could happen, but I've got to keep winning. But hopefully mine's (as little) as two fights away."
In his past eight fights, Sanchez has five "Fight of the Night" bonuses – mostly because of a propensity to throw down with wild abandon. If the fight goes in that direction, Melendez believes he can stand right in and keep things going his way.
"He's that guy who when he's pushed and challenged, he gets caught in it and it becomes a scrap," Melendez said. "I feel like I shine in that, as well. I think I'm intelligent in that area and I'll do good there with him."