Cesar Gracie Credits Pat Healy as “Dangerous Opponent,” But Believes Gilbert Melendez Not “Getting the Fights That he Deserves”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Despite the fact that Gilbert Melendez is set to defend his lightweight title against a surging Pat Healy on September 29th, the longstanding narrative as to what the future holds for the champ and Strikeforce hasn’t gone away. Of course, due his renowned abilities, some continue to question whether Strikeforce can provide Melendez with the high profile opponents that he deserves. This continues to happen, however, at a time when Melendez is about to face an established vet and former welterweight who’s won five straight fights.
“I don’t think Gilbert is getting the fights that he deserves,” the fighter’s accomplished trainer, Cesar Gracie, recently told Full Contact Fighter. “That’s how I feel about it ultimately. That’s not taking anything away from Pat Healy. Pat Healy is not a recognized, big name by the public…in the public’s eye, he doesn’t bring that kind of attention because he’s not someone they know.”
Since his unanimous decision loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida at the 2007 Yarrenoka New Year’s Eve event, Melendez (21-2) has entrenched his position as a leading lightweight by going 8-1. During this time, Melendez has captured headlines throughout the MMA world, by scoring wins over highly regarded fighters like Josh Thomson, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Shinya Aoki. Despite the impressive wins, however, Melendez likely does not share the same elevated profile of some less accomplished UFC lightweights.
“I think Gilbert needs to be fighting other people,” Gracie added about the 30 year-old-fighter. “I think he needs to be in the mix at 155 in the UFC. There’s a lot of tough guys outside the UFC that people don’t know. That’s the problem. Gilbert has to fight them and he’s in a no win situation. If he beats Healy, it really doesn’t raise his stock in the public’s view. That’s what I’m concerned about.”
“Ultimately what I would like to see is Gilbert in the UFC, or I’ve stated this before, UFC fighters; guys like Gray Maynard coming over and challenging Gilbert,” added Gracie. “That’s what I would love to see.”
While Healy (28-16) may not be a very familiar name with mainstream MMA fans yet, there’s no doubting the success he’s had as a result of dropping down to lightweight. The Team Quest fighter has taken out noted fighters like Caros Fodor, Lyle Beerbohm, Maximo Blanco and more recently Mizuto Hirota since arriving in Strikeforce. During his tenure with the promotion, the only man to beat Healy is the perennial contender Thomson.
“I’m sure some people are overlooking Pat,” conceded Gracie. “I was at his fight when he fought Josh Thomson. I thought for sure he was going to win that fight. He was so close and he made a mistake, Josh took his back and choked him out. The whole fight he was winning until that point and pretty decisively.”
“I think he’s a dangerous opponent. He’s a very big 155’er. He’s fought a lot at 170,” Gracie added. “When he cuts down from 155 he comes in really big the next day. He’s a grinder and he can punish you. He’s very tough, has a lot of fights and is a crafty veteran. I do believe that Gilbert will win that fight. It’s a tough fight; Gilbert’s going to have to come in with 100% of his arsenal to win that fight.”
The title fight will headline Strikeforce’s upcoming September 29th event in Sacramento, California.
“It could be; it could be a wrestling match,” said Gracie, when asked if he’s expecting a long, drawn out, five round battle. “We’ll have to see.”