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UFC #1 contender Gilbert Melendez fine with long layoff

MMA: UFC 166-Melendez vs Sanchez

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Oct 19, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Gilbert Melendez (red gloves) fights against Diego Sanchez (blue gloves) in their lightweight bout during UFC 166 at Toyota Center. (Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports)

Gilbert Melendez has said that he is thrilled with his new UFC contract. It kept him with the top MMA promotion in the world, promised him a coaching role on The Ultimate Fighter season 20 opposite lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and a title shot against Pettis after the show's taping. That said, Melendez' TUF stint will keep him out of fighting action for a long time.

During a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Melendez explained why he doesn't mind taking some time off from the cage. "I've been there before," Melendez said of long absences from competition.

"I'm older in this sport. I get baned up here and there. I've done it before - taken a year off and come back. I'm okay with it. And, also, what I'm okay with is Anthony Pettis will be out longer and is also going to come back from an injury. That makes it a little bit easier. I'd like to fight a little bit sooner but it's the way it worked out. I'm going straight into a title fight."

At 31 years old, "El Nino" is certainly no spring chicken as an MMA lightweight. In contrast, Pettis is just 27 years old. 

A long layoff for a battle-worn veteran like Melendez might very well help his body heal up. Additionally, Melendez seems to be assuming whatever rust he may put on will pretty much be a wash with Pettis' own layoff because of his injured knee. 

Pettis last fought in August, when he won the UFC belt from Benson Henderson. Melendez last fought and won in October, with a slobber knocker against Diego Sanchez.

Who do you think will benefit or be harmed more by the layoff? Or, do you think it won't be a factor at all?

Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

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