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DENVER, CO - AUGUST 11: Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez and Tareq Azim attends UFC 150 inside Pepsi Center on August 11, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photos by Zuffa LLC)
TRAINING: Same as always.... twice a day, once a day on sat and recover on Sundays. Training consists of sparring with my team, working striking with Jongsanan Chaiyasen, jiu-jitsu with Cesar Gracie black belt Dan Marks and all the Gracie Fighter boys, wrestling with Travis Lee, running and lifting.
When and why did you start training for fighting? I started training for fighting, maybe unconsciously, since high school wrestling. I’ve always liked one on one competition, and it wasn’t until I was in college that I picked up MMA because my friend Jake Shields introduced me to it. It’s a great feeling to have no one to blame but yourself, and there’s no better high than being a dominant fighter. You can beat me in basketball, you can beat me at arm wrestling, but I can beat your ass.
What ranks and titles have you held? Two-time Strikeforce lightweight champion, former WEC lightweight champion. Brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Cesar Gracie
Do you have any heroes? My father and my teammates
What does it mean for you to fight in the UFC? It’s something I’ve been waiting for a long time. It feels great fighting for the title in the best organization in the world. It’s an honor.
Did you go to college and if so what degree did you earn? I did go to SF State, but I did not get my degree. I started pursuing fighting and working a job, and it was too hard to juggle all three, and fighting had to be first. I was studying liberal arts and anticipating becoming a teacher and coaching high school wrestling. I never got there but I think I may go back.
What was your job before you started fighting? I was a waiter and I also worked at the Fairtex gear shop, where I packed all the gloves and bags and sent them to plenty of gyms. A lot of people who got gear about five or six years ago from Fairtex had it sent by me.
Specific accomplishments in pro competition? I beat the Dream (Shinya Aoki), Shooto (Tatsuya Kawajiri), and Deep (Nobuhiro Obiya) champions when they were the champs.
Favorite grappling technique: Rear naked choke and takedowns
Favorite striking technique: I like a three hit combo and I also like to land the right hand.