After a nine-month absence, MMA veteran Gilbert Melendez made his return at UFC 239 on Saturday against young up-and-comer Arnold Allen. “El Niño” ended up losing via unanimous decision, marking his fifth straight defeat since 2014.
Now 37 years of age, the former Strikeforce champion recognizes his place in the current food chain, alongside his younger contemporaries.
“I’m someone who’s always had friends and love and fighting didn’t define me,” Melendez told ESPN colleague Brett Okamoto in a post-fight interview. “I have a beautiful, wonderful wife, I have a family that’s supported me, and I have a great community of people at my gym. I don’t need fighting, and it doesn’t define me.
“It’s no secret I’ve been on the fourth quarter. I fought when no one knew about fighting, then I fought when everyone knew about fighting and I’m fighting still because I like it. Not for popularity, not because I want to win, not because I want to protect my brand, just because I love to challenge myself.
“I leveled up today just being out there, challenging myself,” he added. “What a great opportunity to be here on a big stage and chase another great moment. And unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but it was fun. I had a good time and I wish I could’ve done more.”
With another loss on his record, Melendez is now made to contemplate on whether or not he will carry on with his career.
“It’s hard to say. It’s hard to just say it’s over,” he said. “I love how Renzo Gracie will never retire. Who knows? Maybe five years down the road, something will happen.
“But I think it’s safe to say I want to put my energy towards my team, towards my wife who’s a fighter, to all my members out there, and not leaning on them like that’s the reason I have to stop. I just think maybe I can thrive more in those moments.”
After UFC 239, Melendez now drops to a record of 22-8 (with 12 wins by knockout).