Suffolk's Allen to face legend Melendez at biggest UFC event of the year in Las Vegas
PUBLISHED: 21:15 08 May 2019 | UPDATED: 21:25 08 May 2019
Suffolk's Arnold Allen is set for the biggest fight of his life against legend Gilbert Melendez in the year's most high-profile UFC event in Las Vegas.
Allen (14-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) will do battle with icon of the sport Melendez (22-7, 1-5 UFC) in a featherweight fight at UFC 239 on Saturday, July 6 - the culmination of international fight week, the biggest week of the year for mixed martial arts.
The duo were originally set to throw hands at the Ultimate Fighter 28 finale last November, but Melendez pulled out of the fight with an injury.
Trimley St Mary's Allen then put on a career-best performance in his last showing at UFC London in March, totally outclassing the tough Jordan Rinaldi on his way to a shutout points win.
With a five-fight unbeaten streak in the 145lbs division, Allen is second only to long-reigning champion Max Holloway.
The Melendez fight is a huge opportunity for him to notch a win over a big name fighter and announce himself on the world stage, but also a stern test - Melendez is a former Strikeforce and WEC champion, and challenged Anthony Pettis for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 181 in December 2014, losing by guillotine choke in the second round.
He last fought in September 2017, losing on points to perennial featherweight contender Jeremy Stephens.
Before their first fight was cancelled, Allen said: "He's a tough lad. He's hinted at retirement and I'm sure he wants to retire on a high.
"I'm always excited to fight and to get on a Vegas card has always been one of my goals, so it'll be great to cross that off."
When it was put to him that he may have the advantage on the ground and in the grappling exchanges in what many fans were tipping as a nailed-on fight of the night, Allen - who's already won two performance of the night bonuses in his UFC career - said: "I try not to focus on one particular area with MMA, I'm going to be prepared for every scenario.
"Bonuses are always nice, but I never go out there with it on my mind - the first thing is to get the win.
"I've always planned to be where I'm at and I've worked my butt off to get here - but I'm still nowhere near where I want to be."