Melendez (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) is now a winning strawweight looking to expand her pro record to 2-0 when she meets Tiani Valle (1-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) at Bellator 201 on June 29. But there’s another descriptor that is often attached to her name in MMA-related conversation: “wife of Gilbert Melendez.”
That’s understandable. While Gilbert (22-7 MMA, 1-5 UFC) hasn’t had the best run lately, the former Strikeforce champion and current UFC lightweight is still highly regarded as a skilled athlete and one of the most recognizable names in the sport. Keri, in turn, is still taking her first MMA steps.
As one would expect, Keri definitely hopes to have fans not only because of her husband, but because of the way she fights.
“I would like the respect in the fight game,” Melendez told MMAjunkie Radio ahead of Bellator 201, which streams on MMAjunkie and airs on Paramount from Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif.
But, as far as having her name often tied to that of her husband’s goes, the 34-year-old Melendez has no problem at all.
“I don’t mind being a fighting couple,” Melendez said. “I think Gilbert has won amazing things in his career and fortunately sometimes the reference is, ‘Oh, you guys have the same fighting style.’ Some people have said that to me, and I take it as a compliment.
“We do like to do things together and help brand each other together, even though I’m still new in MMA. But I like being associated and being a fighting family. And my daughter trains, so I like that.”
Keri Melendez in a kickboxing match.
Gilbert is an integral part of Keri’s life as a fighter. He, along with her striking coach, is one of her head coaches. He runs the MMA team of where both train and is with her for almost all practices – not to mention the dedicated sessions she gets on the side.
Their careers intertwine outside of the cage, as well. Gilbert is not only Keri’s manager but, as big fight fans as well as a fighting couple, the pair takes their work home.
“We gameplan a lot,” Keri said. “We have the same striking coach, so we talk about our pad work and what worked today and the things that we wanted to add. And anything that we can tell each other, that could help each other improve, we do that in the striking.”
Even if, sometimes, some boundaries have to be politely set.
“In the grappling portion, sometimes he tries to bring that at home, and I do like that, but he’s a little hard on me,” Melendez said. “So I’m like, ‘Let’s leave that at the gym. I don’t want you to be so critical of me all the time.’”
Still, Melendez doesn’t seem to have many complaints about their partnership. Gilbert, who’s yet to get booked in the octagon since a loss to Jeremy Stephens last November, is usually quite involved but has been even more so for this particular camp. He’s the one waking up early to leave their daughter at school so she can sleep in and, she adds with a laugh, has even learned how to cook a good egg.
“Gilbert is not done (with his own career) yet, but he’s an awesome partner and companion,” Melendez said. “We discussed earlier in the year that I’d fight first. So he decided to fight second and make it work for me.”
One can understand why Melendez would be eager to get in there after a long layoff. Melendez was, in fact, supposed to have made her second Bellator appearance last June, but then injury forced her out of a scheduled Bellator NYC meeting with Sadee Monseratte Williams.
Melendez says she treats every camp like it’s the biggest of her life as she doesn’t take any opponent lightly. The injury return factor, however, made for a more grueling preparation than she’d originally expected. So, after she’s done with Valle, Melendez is hoping to pick up the pace in the cage.
“It’s been a little bit hard to get back to par and where I wanted to be,” Melendez said. “It took me a little bit longer than I expected. So, now that I am back to par, I do want to stay busy and (as) active as I can be.
“The only thing that I’m going to worry about is just working around Gilbert’s next fight. Other than that, I think I’ll jump on another fight, with a shorter camp notice and anything that’s going to keep me a little more active.”
To hear from Melendez, check out the video above.
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Bellator 201's Keri Melendez wants own respect in MMA but embraces being a 'fighting family'