In five days, Gilbert Melendez was set to once again put his Strikeforce lightweight title on the line, but instead he's going to be starting rehabilitation and recovery on a separated shoulder.
Melendez suffered the injury 12 days ago when a hard sparring session with teammate Jake Shields resulted in his shoulder popping out of place.
“What happened was I separated my shoulder. I was just going with Jake Shields, a tough day of sparring, and we're both fighting for takedowns, defending it hard and we both just landed all of our weight up on my shoulder. The impact separated my shoulder,” Melendez told MMAWeekly Radio on Monday.
“The timing of it, just 12 days out, there's no way I could recover from it.”
Melendez shared the news of his injury with Strikeforce right away, but tried valiantly to push through the injury. Last Friday, when he was still unable to lift his arm above his head or even pick up his daughter, Melendez knew it was time to make the dreaded call to matchmaker Sean Shelby and inform him that he was not going to be able to fight.
It was a tough decision for Melendez, who admits he wanted to battle through it and still take the fight, but he knows deep down that he made the right call.
“I still have that in me that I have to fight, I must fight, the show must go on, but my family and my team helps me re-evaluate and realize it's a business, and I am a top fighter. Yes, if I want to go in there and fight with one arm that's on me, but that's just stupid. It's not the right decision,” said Melendez.
When the final call was made that he would be unable to take the fight, Melendez picked up the phone and called opponent Pat Healy to tell him about the situation. It wasn't about making amends because injuries are part of the sport, but Melendez says Healy deserved the call from him personally.
“I respect Pat and I respect the sport of MMA. Pat deserves it, and I just know how it feels to train for seven weeks and not be able to run the race. Especially for him, where he's healthy and ready to go. Just doing what I think any real man should do,” Melendez stated.
He knew that when he dropped out of the fight with Healy it was going to put Strikeforce in a tough spot, but what he didn't expect to find out next was that the entire card was going to be scrapped and pulled from Showtime.
It was a shock to the Strikeforce lightweight champion, and he was gutted for the other fighters on the card that now don't get to compete.
“I was bummed for the fighters. I'm bummed for the show. I'm bummed for Showtime. I weighed everything out right before I pulled out like the fans are going to be disappointed, then all of a sudden I cancelled the paychecks of a lot of fighters, that bums me out,” said Melendez.
“It bums me out that's what had to happen. I'm partially responsible for that, not all of it, but my injury is partially responsible for that, it sucks for all the fighters.”
Now that the tough call to pull out of the fight has been made, Melendez has to focus on getting his shoulder back to 100-percent so he can fight again and defend his title. While surgery appears off the table for now, Melendez knows there is still a road ahead of rehabilitation before he can start full-time training.
“We're looking at about five more weeks and then we'll re-evaluate things,” said Melendez.
As far as timing for his return to action, Melendez would be unable to compete on the upcoming Strikeforce card on Nov. 3, and as of now there are no other card scheduled for the remainder of 2012. The main concern for the champion is to get healthy so he can compete again, and if everything works out he'd still love to give Healy the shot, assuming he's willing to wait.
“Yeah, most definitely if he decides to wait it out or if he does not and he wins, then yes. If Pat decides to fight and loses, he might lose that shot, but yeah of course I think he's next in line. I think he's done a lot, and he's been on a long road to get here and it would be a bummer for him to lose that chance,” Melendez stated.
“I think he deserves it.”
The full interview with Gilbert Melendez as well as his opponent Pat Healy will air on Tuesday's edition of MMAWeekly Radio.
- Gilbert Melendez