Bellator 229: Keri Melendez Looking to “Keep the Rhythm Going”

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Back in the cage for the first time in a year, Keri Melendez is hoping to keep the rhythm going — and is also hoping Scott Coker opens the door to 115lb women.

Temecula, CA — Keri Melendez improved her perfect record to 4-0 Friday night at Bellator 229. With a unanimous decision win over Mandy Polk, Melendez got back in the win column — her first fight in over a year. Now, she’s looking to maintain that momentum.

“I definitely want to keep the rhythm going,” she told Cageside Press in an exclusive post-fight interview. “My nerves were a little bit shot this time, because I hadn’t been in for a little bit. I’ve been doing a lot back home, helping my teqammates, running the gym, and being with my family. So I kind of shook out the, not really ring rust, because I felt comfortable in there, but just [shook] out my nerves.”

It clearly worked, given the unanimous decision win. And Melendez is hoping that performances like that convince Bellator CEO Scott Coker to open a strawweight division. Thus far, Bellator has held 115lb fights for women as one-offs, with the promotion having only flyweight and featherweight for the ladies.

“I hope something like this,” Melendez said when asked what it might take to convince Coker to institute the weight class. “I keep showing that I can go in there battle with different types of opponents. I hope that it’s enough for Scott to want to start the division. I know there’s a lot of 115’ers out there.”

Case in point, Ava Knight, who fought at 115lbs just a week ago. “That’d be a good fight for me,” suggested Melendez. “I’d go up to 125 to fight some good fights. Anything that can bring me some good fights now. I think I’m ready to take on some other people, some more experienced people. Just like Mandy Polk. She had three times as much experience as me, and I was excited for it. I want to fight some more seasoned people and to bring me up in the ranks.”

Speaking of Polk, Melendez’s opponent went for the takedown almost immediately Friday night. “I knew that she wasn’t going to want to strike with me, and we were preparing for the bum rush. I thought I hit her good with a right hand, and then she took me down after,” observed Melendez.

“I was kind of pissed that I let myself get taken down so quickly, but I felt comfortable there,” she continued. It’s something she worked on with her coaches and teammates, including husband Gilbert Melendez, and fellow Bellator fighter Leslie Smith.

Melendez admitted to feeling some frustration over not being able to finish the fight. “A little bit, because if I have someone, their arm trapped like that, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t finish,” she stated. “So we’re going to go back, I’m going to do my homework, work on that, so next time when I do get someone trapped like that, it’s going to be 100% finished.”

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