NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki did not mince words when asked how his lopsided defeat to Gilbert Melendez reflected upon the state of Japanese mixed martial arts.
“The result of the fight says everything,” Aoki said through his translator.
Dominated for five rounds, Aoki had no answer for Melendez in the Strikeforce “Nashville” co-main event on Saturday at the Bridgestone Arena. A 28-year-old Cesar Gracie protégé, Melendez bullied him standing and on the ground, shredding the guard of one of the sport’s most feared ground fighters with tactical offense and savvy positioning. Aoki entered his stateside debut as the consensus number two lightweight in the world, the weight of a nation resting upon his shoulders.
“A lot of people may say Japanese MMA lost,” Aoki said. “I will train hard and hopefully be back. I lost completely.”
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker called the matchup, which resulted from a co-promotional effort with Japan’s Fighting and Entertainment Group, a “milestone” in mixed martial arts history. Aoki’s immediate future carries with it some certainty, as he expects to defend his Dream crown against Tatsuya Kawajiri this summer. Beyond that, he admits he would welcome a second crack at Melendez, perhaps in Japan.
“At this moment, I’d like to face Gilbert again,” said Aoki, who had not lost a decision in nearly five years. “I want to be a better fighter, so Gilbert will say, ‘I want to fight against Aoki again.’”