Tony Reid – You speak a lot about wanting to represent women in all combat sports. How important is it to you to be one of the faces of women’s combat sports in Bellator and in combat sports as a whole?
Keri Melendez – “There are a lot of women representing. I am all about empowering women and not bringing others down. I feel like there are a lot of great women in the sport. I want to be a big part of it. I have a daughter who looks up to me. A lot of women come up to me all the time. As a wife, a mother, a fighter, a business owner…I am really proud to go out there and put on a good show and represent women.”
TR – What fight from your kickboxing career would you want MMA fans to see?
KM – Every fight that I have is different. I have a different game plan for every woman I face. I feel like I am an intelligent fighter and I feel like I can adapt really well. There is not one style that I stick to. I know I am a technical fighter. Many people talk about my speed. I feel like my strengths are my technique, speed and intelligence. Every fight is different and I am going to take on every opponent differently.
TR – You and Gilbert are co-owners of El Nino Training Center. You spent a lot of time with the rest of the Skrap Pack as well. Could you open the gym doors and share a memorable story with us?
KM – “There is not one particular moment that stands out. I think every time the original Skrap Pack gets together-Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Jake Shields and my husband (Gilbert Melendez) they always put on a good show. They have a good energy. We are lucky we get to see all the masters of the sport training together. We get front row seats to them fighting each other. We get to watch them fight for free. It’s crazy. It’s always a good atmosphere in there. It’s an incredible thing to see.”
TR – Are the gym fights better than what we see under the bright lights of national TV and Pay per View?
KM – “It’s definitely better to be on the big stage when they have 100% on the line and they are fighting other people. In training they are fighting hard but they are also taking care of each other.”
TR – What has been the biggest “pinch me” moment for you as far as the growth of women in combat sports over the years?
KM – “I don’t know if it’s a “pinch me” moment but it was a moment I will always remember, when I saw Germaine de Randamie knock out a guy online. She was getting hit hard and then she ended up knocking him out. I will never forget that. I thought this girl was crazy! She knocked out a guy! Women are on the come up.”
TR – You have said that you are not just Gilbert Melendez’s wife. What is the dynamic of the husband-wife/business partners/gym owner situation?
KM – “I don’t mind being Gilbert Melendez’s wife. I am proud of my husband. The dynamic is that we are a team. He supports me. It was hard when I was fighting for very little pay. It was hard, like “Let me push your amazing career aside and let me fight here for free”. He saw me progress. He saw potential in me. He told me to go for it. We are a team. He is my husband. We own the gym together. We train together. He is an amazing father to our daughter. He takes care of my family. We take care of each other. It’s just a great dynamic. We push each other all the time. I am so grateful for him.”
TR – You and Gilbert are, literally, a power couple in MMA right?
KM – “I hope so. He is an amazing fighter and has so much insight to give me. We can discuss fighting all day. We can talk about a sparring session, a grapping session and just be there for each other. And I don’t believe he really wanted to do a track workout today but he sucked it up and did it for me.”