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QUINTET Ultra: Gilbert Melendez

Former UFC title challenger Gilbert Melendez is excited to take part in QUINTET Ultra.

Don’t call it a comeback. Call it another takeover.

Launching in 2006, Strikeforce was another promotion trying to get off the ground. To the untrained eye Strikeforce was another promotion serving as a home for women’s mixed martial artists and fighters who didn’t find themselves in the UFC. Those who spent any time watching saw quickly that Strikeforce was a force to be reckoned with, chalk-full of stars and future household names.

Strikeforce put a whole different spark into mixed martial arts with a professional touch to a crew full of brawlers that had not been seen yet outside of the Octagon.

With heavy striking, big names and unintended stars being born, Strikeforce was almost immediately every MMA fan’s “second favorite promotion.”

While names like Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, Ronda Rousey, Luke Rockhold, Robbie Lawler and many, many more spending quality time shining under the Strikeforce banner, one crew in particular stood out.

The Skrap Pack.

Fronted by Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields, the Skrap Pack was the collective face of Strikeforce for unrelenting striking, legendary brawls, unshakable toughness, short fuses and a dissatisfaction with taking a fight to decision.

“I think there’s an attitude that we have or a culture or a mindset,” Gilbert Melendez said. “Nate (Diaz) says it all the time, ‘kill or be killed’ and we’re the type of guys when we compete we come right at you and we try to finish a fight and we come to fight where a lot of people try to come out and have a point match or come out and avoid the confrontation to somehow slip by going through a match without even fighting.”

Some of the most famous moments in Strikeforce history are centered around the Skrap Pack’s emotion and brawling meeting in and out of the cage. Whether it was letting “Mayhem” Miller know how wasn’t welcome inside the cage or another spat with him backstage, Stockton’s team was ready for sparks to fly at the drop of a hat.

The four made no effort to fight the reputation of 209 street fighters.

“I almost take that as a compliment because people fear the street fighter and they fear the unknown,” Melendez said. “People fear the person who is mentally strong and make you dig deep. You may be the better fighter but we’re the person in front of you who won’t quit. I think a lot of good fighters are good fighters until they feel the pressure and then they collapse. A lot of times we’re the guys who are going to have to take some damage until you feel the pressure and then we take over.”

From all that’s seen along with the folklore that follows the Skrap Pack, there’s just as many tall tales as there are true stories.

Contrary to popular opinion, the crew wasn’t made up of bullies or hooded men making their way through life targeting those weaker than them. Fighting wasn’t born from an urge to assault; it was a love of the ultimate competition mixed with a bitter necessity.

“We all just come from different cultures where you can’t go run to mom and dad to bail you out of an issue at school or in the street,” Melendez explained. “We had to go handle it yourself and that’s how we grew up but that doesn’t make us thugs. We’re not out doing drugs or sitting on the corner drinking 40’s or anything like that.”

Love them or hate them, the Skrap Pack didn’t make it to the top by chance. They could flat out fight. In fact, Melendez alone is responsible for wars that rank as some of the greatest fights in Strikeforce history. His showings against Josh Thomson or his validation rematch against Tatsuya Kawajiri showed the skill of a mixed martial artist, not a “thug.”

“I believe we were born fighters who just sharpened up our skill and our technique as we went on,” Melendez said. “I think our mentality and our culture and the way we were brought up which is take two just to give one transitions to our style. We’re not going to sit there and stall. We’re going to go out there and try to make something happen. It’s a high risk, high reward type of attitude.”

While the Mount Rushmore of Strikeforce welcomes a dogfight, there’s a forgotten aspect of the fight game that separates the Melendez and the Skrap Pack from the thugs on the streets. Some of the most skilled, disciplined BJJ in the business.

“We’re just a homegrown team,” Melendez said. “Not recruits. Not wrestling champs from Oklahoma, not some guys from Russia coming over. We’re a group of guys who train our asses off and spend our time in the gym.”

With only two combined losses via submission, Melendez and Jake Shields are proof in their own right that opponents will do anything necessary to keep a fight on the feet.

With those two names alone, Team Strikeforce stands as the early favorite to win QUINTET Ultra amongst active UFC fighters and while Melendez enjoys the vote of confidence the rest of the team can only help prove that Strikeforce didn’t see themselves as just players, but the head of the pack.

“If you go back, guys like Daniel Cormier were co-main event when I was main event,” Melendez said. “That was our time. That’s when Nick, Jake, myself we were on top of the world fighting in Japan, fighting in Strikeforce, fighting internationally, taking on everybody. That was our time when we were ruling the MMA world and I still stand by that.”

For anything Strikeforce and to watch the televised revolution at QUINTET Ultra, Thursday, December 12, head over to UFC FIGHT PASS!