The career of Gilbert Melendez in the UFC took a strange turn the other day when UFC president Dana White basically signed off on him in a quote relayed through Ariel Helwani on Wednesday’s edition of UFC Tonight.
We made our own speculation here but who knew a move would come this soon. Bellator announced it in a press release sent out late Friday night.
Melendez’s contract ran out after his fight of the year candidate against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166. The win over Sanchez brought his UFC record to 1-1 after a controversial loss in his debut as he challenged then-champion Benson Henderson for his lightweight crown.
Melendez (22-3) was briefly linked to a bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 170 as shown on an early promotional poster but the fight was clearly never finalized and the billing was removed from the promotional material.
The deal with Bellator was drawn out as a multi-year, multi-fight one that the UFC now has the chance to match if they desire. The deal is not completely finalized, just agreed upon.
World Series of Fighting executive vice president and match maker Ali Abdel-Aziz made an offer over Twitter to acquire Melendez. Abdel-Aziz is known as being proactive in these situations as he called out Bellator to a promotion vs. promotion PPV event, but an actual deal was never reached or formally discussed for that matter.
Here is Abdel-Aziz’s tweet:
Here is Bellator MMA Chairman Bjorn Rebney on signing Melendez to Bellator:
“The moment Gil was legally able to explore the free agent market, Gil’s management team reached out to me and we began figuring out how to bring Gil to Bellator,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney. “It’s no secret that I’ve been a big “El Nino” fan for many years. Gil was one of the first fighters I tried to sign when I launched Bellator back in 2008, and he’s grown and developed into one of the best and most exciting lightweights on earth. Gil has a vision for what he wants to accomplish both inside and outside the cage and we can help make his vision a reality. We are in the business of developing and showcasing the greatest fighters on earth. That’s what we intend to do here with Gil and it’s what we’ll continue to do in the future.”
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