Gilbert Melendez’s new UFC deal is signed and put away, and according to Melendez he couldn’t be happier.

Melendez was forced to put his value to the test on the open market earlier this month, when contract negotiations between the brand and his management broke down. With UFC President Dana White’s instructions in hand, ‘El Nino’ brokered a new contract with Bellator MMA and with that, the table was set for Melendez’s departure from the senior circuit.

However, it was not to be and the UFC exercised their ‘matching rights’ clause in El Nino’s contract, and re-signed the number two ranked lightweight just ten days after Bellator’s trumpeted coup.

Yet, for as well as it worked out for Melendez, and indeed it appears that it has worked out for El Nino, the process was not without its risks.

Where it must have been comforting to have Bellator sitting on the sidelines waiting to snatch him up, as El Nino tells it, it's not what he wanted to happen. To the contrary, Melendez wanted desperately to stay with the UFC, but at the same time, had to weigh what was best for his family and future.

 As Melendez recounts getting the (good) news of his new UFC commitment:

“It was on a conference call and I had to put them on mute. I was just smiling and yelling and dancing around like a little girl. I was just really excited.”

It’s a tough thing to do, but I never wanted to walk away. I never wanted to leave the UFC. It’s the best organization in the world, has the best fighters in the world, it’s where I wanted to be, but I had to put that aside to think about my family and my future. …I had to weigh it out and I had to explore my options. I got to a point where I had a good plan for my future, and I just had to hope that the UFC would come along with me so I could get to that point and still be with them.”

Happily and with his contract issues now settled, Melendez can get back to the business of fighting. As El Nino does battle in one of the most competitive divisions in the brand and one that has a phenomenally talented champion, the absence of money worries should free his mind to focus on the task at hand, which is claiming Anthony Pettis’s belt.

With the pair set to coach on the upcoming “The Ultimate Fighter” season 20 series and then square off for the belt later in the year, El Nino, with his new contract, appears to be one step closer to accomplishing his goal of becoming the UFC’s lightweight champion.  

Quote via MMA Junkie