'I'll have the advantage everywhere' - Allen going out to stop icon Melendez in Las Vegas
PUBLISHED: 12:55 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 22:36 04 July 2019
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Ipswich MMA star Arnold Allen faces the biggest fight of his life against legend Gilbert Melendez in Las Vegas this weekend - and is expecting to have the advantage 'everywhere' in the clash.
Allen (14-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) will go to war with Melendez (22-7, 1-5 UFC) in a featherweight fight at the T-Mobile Arena at UFC 239 on Saturday - the biggest mixed martial arts event of the year.
It's the first ever fight in America for Allen, 25, who's currently riding a five-fight winning streak in the division - second only to long-reigning champion Max Holloway.
And, if the Trimley St Mary southpaw can beat icon Melendez, a former UFC title challenger and Strikeforce and WEC champion, it could rocket his career and popularity to the next level.
"This is what I've been working my whole career for," said Allen, who learned his craft in Felixstowe and Colchester before heading out to his current base at the world-famous Tristar Gym in Montreal. "It's a big opportunity.
"I watched Gilbert fight growing up, and I've always liked watching his fights - not that I was a massive fan, but obviously he's a big name in the sport.
"That said, I don't think it will be odd fighting him at all - whenever I fight anyone I watch their fights beforehand, so that's nothing different.
"He's a tough opponent, you can't doubt that - he's aggressive and he's coming in to win, he's not just going to lie down for me.
"I'll have to bring my A-game, and that's what I plan on doing."
The battle, which will serve as the featured prelim of the event, is many fans' pick for a fight of the night contender. Previous form would suggest that, while Melendez enjoys a stand-up war, Allen could expect to have an advantage in the grappling and ground game.
But 'Almighty' said: "I think I'll have the advantage everywhere, to be honest. I always feel like that - that's how we train at Tristar.
"I'm going to win, and I'll definitely be trying to stop him - he's as tough as they come, so if I can do that it would be a big statement.
"Then I better be in the top 15 (world rankings) - I thought I'd be in there after my last win (over Jordan Rinaldi at UFC London in March) to be honest with you. They're holding out on me!"
Allen's parents, Jasmine and Pacer, are out in Vegas with him, with his dad - a bodybuilder and former fighter himself - set to be in his corner again, something which the Suffolk fighter feels helps him.
"It's nice to have them over here - it's a pain in the arse, but it's good!" he joked. "I like having dad in my corner, going back to my amateur fights he was there, so it feels right."
His fight is on the same day that Ipswich Town kick off their pre-season schedule over in Germany, and Town fan Allen hopes his victory will be a good omen for the Blues' season.
"I hope it's a boost going into a season where they go back up," he said. "I definitely plan to get to a game when I'm back in Suffolk - it would be crazy one day to get out on the pitch and salute the fans."
- UFC® 239: JONES vs. SANTOS coverage starts live on UFC FIGHT PASS, BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Box Office this Saturday at 11.15pm and continues exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office at 3am.