On the upcoming fight between two lightweight champs:
LinkStrikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is open to an immediate rematch in Japan with DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, regardless of whether he wins or loses in their first meeting on April 17 at "Strikeforce: Nashville."
"An immediate rematch sounds cool," Melendez (17-2 MMA, 7-1 SF) told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) about a second meeting, the possibility of which was first reported by MMAWeekly.com. "I would love to fight him again."
During a conference call promoting "Strikeforce: Nashville," the promotion's second card broadcast on CBS, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said a rematch between the two champions is fine by him and opens several interesting possibilities in future bookings.
"There's nothing that's set in stone," Coker said. "[Strikeforce and DREAM] agreed that we would take it one step at a time and let Gilbert fight Aoki and take it from there.
"But if they do ask Gilbert to come to Japan, I personally would have no problem with it. If Gilbert wanted to do it, maybe he could go back and take the DREAM belt and be a dual title holder."
"I wouldn't mind doing that," Gilbert followed.
If Aoki (23-4 MMA, 0-0 SF) emerges victorious on April 17, things could get complicated for Strikeforce.
"I think Gilbert would have to go to Japan and beat him up over there," Coker said. "We would say Gilbert, if you want to fight Aoki, you have to go fight in Japan under DREAM rules and win their belt, (and) bring the DREAM belt here.
"Then, unfortunately, Aoki would keep his Strikeforce belt because the rules are different. [Strikeforce is] in a cage. DREAM is in a ring. So we couldn't make it a unified belt.
"Then they'd be one and one, and we'd have to do the rubber match."
To complicate matters, Aoki is penciled in for a July fight in DREAM against Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2), as earlier reported by MMAjunkie.com. The Japanese grappling ace could be a busy man.
Melendez, however, did not comment on the July fight as a factor in his thoughts about an immediate rematch. He said his first goal is to retain his 155-pound belt against the Japanese submission ace.
"A perfect fight would be we never hit the ground and I sprawl-and-brawl this guy," he said. "You've got to be prepared for every scenario in this fight and I believe I am."
Melendez, who is ranked among the world's top-10 lightweights by several media outlets, re-took the undisputed title from Josh Thomson this past December at "Strikeforce: Evolution" nearly 18 months after Thomson snatched it from him at "Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Thomson."
Aoki makes his U.S. debut April 17 after a decorated career in Shooto, PRIDE and DREAM that's put him near the top of most unofficial ranking lists. But he's never fought in a cage before, and there are questions surrounding his ability to adapt to the space, particularly without the grappling pants that have become his trademark (the Tennessee Athletic Commission, which oversees the April 17 event, will not allow the clothing).
With or without the grappling pants, Melendez said he needs to be on guard at all times. He cited Aoki's wins over Eddie Alvarez and Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante as examples of how a small mistake could cost him the fight.
But Melendez was confident he'd best Aoki in Japan or the U.S.
"I'm a soldier here and I'm an employee of [Strikeforce]," he said. "If Scott wants me to fight Aoki in Japan, I'll go there and do it. I have no problem doing it under his rules.
"I really want to make a statement and beat him here, and if I can beat him there as well, I think that would make a real statement in the MMA industry."
He acknowledged, though, that an overseas fight could be slanted in Aoki's favor.
"Not just the fact that we're in Japan, and let's be honest, it's a little biased," Melendez said. "He has a little dialogue with his referees, and he takes a little bit extra time out over there, and they favor him out there.
"But I've fought in Japan before; I got a win against Kawajiri out there. That was a close fight. I feel the judges will be fair.
"I've done it before and I'll do it again. I'm definitely aware of all the risk going out there and I have no problem doing it again."