Gilbert Melendez out for redemption in summer UFC return, wants previously scheduled Al Iaquinta matchup

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Gilbert Melendez has been out of action since last June’s UFC 188 event, serving a year-long suspension due to exogenous testosterone in his system out of a post-fight drug test after his loss to Eddie Alvarez. The former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and two-time UFC Title challenger is ready to return this summer, and he’s targeting a fight the UFC wanted to book last year.

“There is nothing officially on the schedule, but I’m looking to get back in late July,” Melendez said this week in an interview with Duane Finley at “I haven’t been reaching out, but I know people have been inquiring. I really feel the fight with Al Iaquinta makes the most sense. We were going to do it before so let’s go ahead and get it done. I know he’s been recovering from an injury, but I heard he’s looking to come back around the same time I am. Let’s do it.”

The UFC wanted that fight at UFC Fight Night 71 last July, but after Melendez was pulled from the fight, Iaquinta himself wound up requiring surgery, keeping him out since April of last year. Though nothing’s yet official, Melendez feels he’s got something to prove upon his return.

“This is all about redemption for me now,” Melendez said. “I’m in a place now where I feel I have something to prove. I want to show everyone that I’m still one of the baddest men out there. I fight with guts and heart and I can overcome adversity. Those are the things I’m looking to show the world and I’m determined like never before to prove myself. That’s what happens when you get hungry again, and that’s exactly where I’m at.”

Penick’s Analysis: Redemption is the right word for Melendez after the failed drug test, and regardless of who it comes against he’s in need of a victory when he gets back in there. Two losses in a row to Anthony Pettis and Alvarez already had him in need of a significant performance, and the failed drug test only hurt his status further. He was lucky the test failure came before the USADA deal was implemented, because he’s getting to return this summer rather than in 2017. A fight with Iaquinta was intriguing last year and remains so in 2016, so if both are able to fight by late July don’t be surprised if that fight indeed comes together.

[Photo (c) Joe Camporeale via USA Today Sports]

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