UFC 239's Gilbert Melendez rediscovered his love for MMA by stepping away

He never quite came right out and said it, but after his last fight, Gilbert Melendez needed to step away from MMA awhile in order to rediscover his love of the sport.

The former Strikeforce lightweight champion is one of the game’s toughest customers, but the manner in which his last fight unfolded, where Jeremy Stephens used a relentless leg-kick attack at UFC 215 to send Melendez to his fourth straight loss, caused the latter to reevaluate his place in the sport into which he’s dedicated so much of his time.

“It was a little more on, just, really reassessing everything for me as a fighter and why I’m doing it and how I’m feeling while doing it,” Melendez said on a recent edition of MMA Junkie Radio. “And after that fight, it definitely didn’t fit well, the performance, taking kicks that way and getting hurt that way.

“I didn’t really tell anybody, but I thought to myself, maybe we try the life of not a fighter, maybe stay away from the madness. I’m not enjoying this job anymore. It’s something I used to really enjoy, but it’s now more of a job and I’m going through the process not training. I’m doing it all, but I’m not loving it the same way.”

So Melendez went out and tried to live a non-fighter’s life for awhile. And like so many before him, with some time away, he rediscovered his dedication to the sport.

“I decided to take some time off the mats and try to live that life a little bit,” Melendez said. “But of course, I kept going back to the mats, kept training, and eventually got hungry and just reassessed everything. Not really, like, I’m not looking at this like a job for this camp. I’m looking at it to be a blessing to be able to get out there and compete and do something I love, and to do something to challenge myself and to make sure I enjoy the experience the ride for this fight. So I think my mindset has really changed, I’m motivated and I’m having fun, I’m excited, I feel like I have something to let out, out there, and something to show.”

This, it’s a refreshed Melendez (22-7 MMA, 1-5 UFC) who will meet Arnold Allen (14-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) at UFC 239 in a featherweight matchup, ending a hiatus of nearly two years. When Melendez makes his walk in Las Vegas, he’ll do so with his spirit for the sport reinvigorated, which he believes will lead to good things when the cage door locks.

“It’s just about going back out there and loving it and enjoying the whole process and walking down the aisle and of course there’s nerves and all that,” Melendez said. “But just enjoying it like I used to, that’s how I’m enjoying this whole training camp and how I’m going to handle my fight.”

To hear more from Melendez, check out the video above.

For more on UFC 239, check out our UFC Rumors page.

MMA Junkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.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. You can also check out www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmfightnation.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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