MMA

From fighter to analyst, Melendez knows MMA first hand

MMA fighter Chris Weidman (l), Stuart Scott and Gilbert Melendez in the UFC Octagon ring. (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
(L-R) MMA fighter Chris Weidman, SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott and MMA fighter, ESPN analyst Gilbert Melendez in a UFC Octagon on the ESPN campus.
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Besides Gilbert Melendez, here’s a sampling of other notable athletes who recently have worked as ESPN analysts in the midst of their athletic careers:

– NFL safety Ryan Clark, who has had several stints as an ESPN NFL guest analyst since his May 2013 debut

– Golfer David Duval, who has won more than $18 million on the PGA Tour, debuted as an ESPN analyst during the 2012 U.S. Open and continues to work selected events

– WNBA player Kara Lawson, who doubles as an ESPN college basketball commentator

– NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who has provided NASCAR Nationwide race commentary from 2011-2013

– Boxer Delvin Rodriguez, who doubles as an ESPN Deportes boxing analyst and recently fought on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights for the 17th time

– Snowboarder Louie Vito, who has been co-host of 2014 X Games as well as a competitor

– Soccer star Landon Donovan, who is providing World Cup commentary for ESPN and playing for MLS’s LA Galaxy
Front Row staff

Many ESPN analysts are former coaches and athletes who started their careers in sports media following retirement. MMA fighter Gilbert Melendez already (@GilbertMelendez) is building his resume as he continues to provide expert analysis for ESPN. Tonight, Melendez is in Las Vegas to offer post-fight analysis of UFC 175 for SportsCenter.

Melendez, a Santa Ana, Calif. native who goes by the nickname, “El Nino,” began his on-air work with ESPN in August 2013 for UFC 164. Since then, he has covered numerous MMA fights for ESPN’s news and information platforms. As part of ESPN’s coverage leading up to UFC 175, Melendez filmed various segments last week with SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott and UFC Middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the UFC Octagon at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. (Check out a time lapse video of the Octagon being built.) Weidman is headlining tonight’s card against challenger Lyoto Machida.

The segments have been airing throughout the week on SportsCenter and ESPN.com. Watch Melendez demonstrate how Weidman can counter the strengths of Machida during their title fight.

Front Row caught up with Melendez and asked him what it’s like being both an ESPN analyst and an MMA fighter, what other fighters think about his on-air work and more.

What is it like to be both a fighter and analyst?
It’s great being a Mixed Martial Arts fighter and I love being an analyst for ESPN. What better thing to do than talk about MMA on TV? I talk MMA with all of my friends at home, so doing it on TV is great. I love being an ambassador of the sport and this is a great platform for me to do it.

What do other fighters think of your on-air analysis?
I get a lot of good feedback from my peers about my analyst work. It is a double-edged sword because you have to pick a winner and a loser. Sometimes you don’t pick the right winner and you are going to hear it from some of your peers. Some guys are more sensitive than others, but most understand that I am just trying to do my job. In the end, I believe I get a lot of respect for my on-air work.

How has your appreciation for what ESPN analysts do grown during the 10 months you’ve been doing this?
I appreciate what they do very much, especially now that I do it myself. ESPN analysts have to prepare every day to discuss and analyze the news and they do it in such an energetic and creative way, with a lot of eyes watching. That is something I really respect.

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