Josh Thomson gets a title shot with a win on Saturday, Melendez waits in the wings

This must get Thomson real, real excited for Saturday.

 

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

 

Just over a month ago, Josh Thomson was supposed to fight for the UFC lightweight title, but an injury forced champion Anthony Pettis out of the bout and onto the shelf for at least the first half of 2014.

Instead of sitting and waiting for Pettis to return, Thomson opted to accept a fight this weekend against Benson Henderson and he faced some criticism for not staying on the sidelines awaiting the champion to return.

Thomson’s choice won’t cost him in the long run, however, so long as he comes away with the victory on Saturday night because if he wins he will be the next challenger to face Anthony Pettis upon his return.

Here’s the reality – if Thomson wins, he’s the next in line.

- Dana White

If Thomson loses, then the attention may shift to former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, who is coming off a high profile, ‘Fight of the Year’ performance against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 in October.

"Here’s the reality – if Thomson wins, he’s the next in line," UFC president Dana White told FOX Sports on Thursday. "Obviously Ben Henderson just lost very decisively in his last fight with (Anthony Pettis) and should Benson Henderson win, we’ll see what’s up with Gil (Gilbert Melendez)."

Melendez has not booked a new fight, but now he may have an even bigger opportunity awaiting him if Henderson defeats Thomson on Saturday.  Currently, the former Strikeforce king is negotiating a new deal with the UFC, but once his contract is complete then the promotion can move forward with his next fight.

"I met with him not yesterday but the day before, it went well," White said about Melendez.  We like him. We’re working on re-signing the kid.  We had a lot of contracts that needed to be re-upped and we’re getting them done."

It appears Saturday night’s fight, while not a title bout on paper, definitely has championship implications on the line.