Grant’s Coach Doesn’t Believe Melendez’s Latest Win “Warrants a Title Shot”
MacLean Hopes Grant Fights Winner Pettis-Thomson
By Kelsey Mowatt
Since last week’s thrilling fight between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, one of the key questions to emerge is whether Melendez has reinserted himself into the title shot mix. After all, Melendez was narrowly defeated by now former champ Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 7, and with the decision win over Sanchez, he remains the promotion’s #2 ranked lightweight.
Not only that, but UFC President Dana White relayed afterwards that Melendez is back in the championship picture as a result, so much so, the fight was a “huge setback” for contender TJ Grant. The latter, of course, has been tapped for two title fights following his win over Gray Maynard in May, but has remained on the sidelines due to a serious concussion.
While it remains to be seen who will fight the winner of the upcoming Anthony Pettis-Josh Thomson fight on December 14th, Grant’s longtime coach Scott MacLean was evidently surprised to hear White’s assessment.
“I was a little surprised at what I heard from Mr. White,” the Fit Plus coach told Full Contact Fighter. “I don’t think that Gilbert’s performance warrants a title shot. He’s a great fighter but he’s 1-1 in the UFC, and his only win isn’t against a top level lightweight. I think he should have to fight one of the other contenders first: Khabib (Nurmagomedov) or (Rafael) dos Anjos.”
“I watched the fight and was impressed overall,” MacLean added, when asked for his thoughts on the bout, which has been touted as one of the sport’s best ever. “It was an entertaining fight. Gilbert looked great against a game opponent. However, I think the praise he’s getting is a little too much considering that Diego isn’t, wasn’t a top ten level lightweight.”
Grant was initially scheduled to fight Henderson at UFC 164 in August, but the concussion he incurred while grappling weeks before the bout, prevented him from competing. Pettis, of course, went on to win the title and the UFC offered Grant a shot at the newly crowned champ. Since Grant was still unable to take the fight, due to ongoing complications from his head injury, Thomson was tapped for the UFC on FOX 9 fight.
So, since Grant hasn’t fought now since May, it appears as though the 29 year-old may not return to a title shot when he’s ready to fight.
“I personally would like to see TJ fight whoever has the belt,” MacLean noted about Grant, who has won five straight bouts since dropping down from welterweight. “TJ’s the most deserving right now and he’s earned that shot. It would be nice to see him versus Pettis but if it ends up being Thomson that would be fine too.”
“We aren’t sure when TJ is going to be ready to return at this stage, so depending on timing we can’t be sure whether it will be for a title shot or a #1 contender shot.”
And as far as Grant’s ongoing recovery and a possible timeline for his return?
“Obviously, it’s taking longer than originally thought for TJ’s recovery,” said Maclean, “but we are optimistic that he will return to full training soon.”