The “Endless Fighter”’s reputation must be upheld. So when Strikeforce asked Mitsuhiro Ishida to fight Gilbert Melendez on short notice for the interim lightweight title on August 15 all he said was, “Hai;” yes in Japanese.
Defeating Melendez to become champion isn’t a far-out possibility—he already bested the Cesar Gracie fighter on New Year’s Eve 2007.
“Its an old story,” Ishida says. “Even though I won the fight, it’s already two years ago. I will forget about it since it’s a completely new fight.”
Ishida is 1-0 in Strikeforce—he submitted Justin Wilcox in the first round of their 2008 bout at the Playboy Mansion—but lost his last bout against Mizuto Hirota this May in Shooto. He’s 2-2 in his last four, the same mark as Melendez. However, Melendez won his last fight—a devastating KO over Rodrigo Damm in April—to capture the Strikeforce interim gold and much needed momentum for his rematch with the first man to defeat him. He’s been vocal about fighting Ishida again since he felt he lost points and not the fight.
“I think he will come for revenge, and very strong and aggressive,” says Ishida. “So I will go against it.”
While the media crowded around headlining fighter Gina Carano for a Tuesday meet-and-greet at the American Kickboxing Academy, Ishida slipped into the back of the gym unnoticed. He sits, stretches and wraps his hands and tapes his ankle and toes. He warms up as the media follows around Carano for one-on-one interviews. Full throttle training commences. He was happy to get the opportunity to be a champion, he says through a translator, but smiles don’t win fights. Training does.
Despite stepping in for champion Josh Thomson at the last minute, Ishida is ready to fight and on this sweaty San Jose afternoon, he’s focused on sparring hard with Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri.
“I will show everything I’ve got to get this opportunity [to win the title],” Ishida says.
Ishida will face Gilbert Melendez for the interim lightweight championship at the HP Pavilion in San Jose on Aug. 15. Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg will be broadcast on Showtime at 10:30 p.m. EST.