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Taylor-Melendez Sees Pressure, Benefits Being Married to ‘El Nino’

Kristian Ibarra, Today's Knockout

SAN JOSE — Being married to a professional fighter can’t be easy for most.

Especially not for debuting Bellator Dynamite kickboxer Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez who, as her hyphenated last name might tell you, is married to former Strikeforce lightweight champion and current UFC lightweight contender Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez.

She hasn’t just had to watch her husband exchange punches for the past two years, but she’s had to deal with the expectations that come with being a professional fighter who’s married to a professional fighter.

“There is a lot of added pressure from that. I think I have a lot to live up to [because of] everything he’s done in the sport,” she told Today’s Knockout. “So, yes, I do feel a little added pressure but all I can do is train my heart out in the gym and try to show it in the fight.”

But the pressure doesn’t necessarily cloud what benefits exist in having one of the more experienced lightweights in the sport by your side. Having shared the cage with Clay Guida, Josh Thomson, Rodrigo Damm, Shinya Ayoki, Benson Henderson, Diego Sanchez, Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez, you’d be safe to assume Melendez knows a thing or two — if not more — about fighting.

Taylor-Melendez told Today’s Knockout:

“There is a benefit having my husband in my corner. He has a lot of experience and he has so much knowledge to give. I get first-hand, private one-on-one lessons, pretty much. When we’re at home, we pretty much talk about fighting all the time. I’m pretty lucky to have someone at that high level who is my husband, who is also my coach.”

Training and competing in kickboxing for the better part of the last nine years, Taylor-Melendez looks to expand on her skill-set by making the transition into mixed martial arts. If not for an ACL tear and the birth of her and Melendez’s daughter, we likely would have seen her in the cage by now, she says. She looks to make her MMA debut sometime next year, saying there’s still a ways to go before she trades her kickboxing mitts for a pair of finger-less four-ounce gloves.

“There’s plenty to learn all the time — even in Muay Thai, and I’ve been doing that for nine years,” she said. “I think this year I focused a lot on my grappling, and just my all around MMA game. There’s tons always to learn, and I’m never going to stop learning.”

Having competed in five amateur and three professional kickboxing bouts, Taylor-Melendez is no stranger to showcasing her skills in front of a crowd. But Bellator: Dynamite 1’s crowd is set to be bigger than what she’s used to — by a large margin.

According to Bellator President Scott Coker, there could be as many as 12,500 people in attendance in San Jose’s SAP Center.

But just as she’s dealing with the pressures of being wed to “El Nino,” Taylor-Melendez says she can handle this pressure, too.

“Being on such a big stage, it is a new challenge for me, so there is a lot of expectation,” she said. “I am representing the women on the card, so I feel honored to have that much weight on me. But like I said before, I put it all on my training camp so I expect to do well.”

Taylor-Melendez faces Taylor Hadley on the eight-fight main card at Bellator Dynamite 1 Saturday, Sept. 19.

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