Conduct a quick internet search and it’s easy to find multiple lists ranking the most attractive significant wives and girlfriends of athletes in most any major sport. But it’s not all about looks. Frequent appearances by UFC wives and girlfriends on social media, for example, can occur for other reasons, including talent in the combat arts.
Take Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez, the wife of former Strikeforce champion and current UFC talent Gilbert Melendez. Keri Anne’s initial athletic endeavors occurred on the basketball court, but when that phase of her life ended, she shifted her focus to kickboxing, where she has competed for nearly a decade now. That interest eventually led to her and her future husband crossing paths, and she made a lasting impression by punching the MMA star on their first date. They eventually were married in 2013. “From the start, I knew what I was getting into, and I loved it,” she said. Although both husband and wife are active combat sports participants, Keri Anne has admitted to nerves when watching Gilbert fight. “I get so worried, it’s crazy,” she said. “I would never not want him to do it. This has been his passion. Hell no, I’m doing it. He’s not going to tell me not to do it. Now there’s a lot on the line. I do feel more emotional and a little bit worried, just because anything can happen in a fight -- anything. As much as he can be prepared 5,000 percent, anything can happen with those little gloves.” Recently, Keri Anne’s fighting career took center stage while Gilbert spent the past year on the sidelines after failing a post-fight drug test at UFC 188. In the meantime, Keri Anne signed with Bellator MMA with designs on competing in both kickboxing and mixed martial arts. “I got to see firsthand how [Bellator President] Scott Coker treats his fighters and how he treated my husband,” she said. “Scott Coker has been awesome to our family, and he came to our wedding.” While Keri Anne’s MMA debut has yet to arrive, she delivered a solid opening effort at Bellator 142 “Dynamite” in San Jose, Calif., in a kickboxing bout promoted by Glory. There, she dominated Hadley Griffith with multi-punch combinations, kicks and knee strikes to cruise to a unanimous decision triumph. Bellator has since ended its partnership with Glory to launch its own kickboxing venture, something which Coker believes can succeed despite the lack of mainstream interest. “If you look at our roster we have a lot of fighters that can cross over and do both,” Coker said. “When you look at the TV side they liked having kickboxing as part of their programming. We can do a great job, have the fan base that Bellator has already and really market to them and speak to them…” Keri Anne Taylor Melendez figures to have a prominent place in those plans as well as in the Bellator cage.