Nate Diaz: Gilbert Melendez Is the Best Lightweight on the Planet

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterMay 11, 2012

HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 17:  Strikeforce World Lightweight Champion Gilbert 'El Nino' Melendez attends the CBS' Strikeforce MMA Fighters Open Media Workout on March 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Nate Diaz is getting the next shot at Benson Henderson's lightweight title. Well, the next shot after Frankie Edgar gets his shot in August, but you know what I mean.

In Diaz' mind, however, neither the current UFC champ or his challenger are the best lightweights in the world. That honor, according to Diaz, goes to Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez:

I’ve been training with Gilbert and Jake (Shields) for years. They’ve shown me a lot. These are guys I look up to. Me and Gil been battling it out in here for years.

There’s no one better than him. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s the best 155′er on the planet and I think he deserves to be right there in the UFC holding the UFC belt. He’s the man.

This is nothing new in the Cesar Gracie camp. Nate also believes that older brother Nick is the best fighter in the world.

I don't agree that Nick is anywhere near the list of top fighters in the world right now. Not after his loss to Condit, anyway. If Nick comes out of retirement, comes back from his current questionable licensing status and is able to beat both Condit and Georges St-Pierre? He'll get consideration for the top of that mythical pound-for-pound list. But right now? No way.

I do believe that Melendez is the top lightweight in the world, however. I've had him ranked No. 1 on my USA Today rankings ballot for several months now.

The argument can be made that Henderson, as the kingpin of the UFC lightweight division, has faced better competition over the past year and thus is deserving of the top ranking. But I've seen Melendez utterly dominate all competition he's faced over the past three years, while Henderson lost to Anthony Pettis and, at least according to the judges, barely edged Edgar.

There's only one real way to find out who the best lightweight in the world is. Unfortunately, with Melendez stuck in a terrible Strikeforce deal, we won't get the opportunity to find out how he'll fare against better competition for at least another year.