In a story that quickly blew up out of nowhere, former Strikeforce lightweight champion and current UFC lightweight gilbert “El Nino” Melendez may soon be wishing that the Sacramento-based MMA promotion hadn’t been bought by his most recent employer.

Once rumored to be facing surging prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 170, Melendez instead said he was looking for another fight. But news has come today that he may be looking for a new job. Ariel Helwani revealed on tonight’s edition of “UFC Tonight” that Melendez’ UFC contract has run out, and negotiations are going horribly thanks to Dana White disagreeing with his management:

“Honestly, it’s not looking good right now. I actually spoke to UFC president Dana White yesterday about the contract negotiations. A lot of people might not know this, but Gilbert Melendez, his contract with the UFC has expired, and he told me, ‘I’m done. It’s not going well, I’m done. I couldn’t care less at this point.’

He said, ‘I like Gilbert Melendez very much; I just don’t like his management. He said if Gilbert Melendez wants to fight in the UFC, he better call Lorenzo Fertitta quickly. He said he also probably should start looking elsewhere.”

It sounds like White has been pushed to his breaking point, because there’s not much doubt that he most likely wants to keep one of the world’s best lightweights fighting in the Octagon.

However, if “El Niño’s” management is playing hardball with the UFC, we all know how that’s going to work out. Not well, and Melendez could be looking for a new cage to throw down in.

There aren’t too many attractive options available to Melendez right now, with Bellator’s lightweight division probably being the best available choice. Matching “El Nino” up with either champion Eddie Alvarez or Michael Chandler would make for some potentially huge fights.

World Series of Fighting just crowned its first 155-pound champion in talented Denver-based striker Justin Gaethje. It’s doubtful that Melendez would end up there, but a fight with Gaethje could be an exciting affair.

Overall, however, Melendez needs to be fighting in the Octagon. He’s one of the best lightweights in the world, and the only place to prove that is in the UFC. At some point he’s going to have to realize that it’s not worth wasting the biggest earning years of his career quarrelling with management.

There’s still a good shot that Melendez can crawl his way back towards another UFC title shot, so now is the time to get booked in another blockbuster bout.

Much has been made of the UFC’s model for paying fighters. Whose side are you on here? And do you think Melendez’ gripe is enough to justify leaving the UFC?

Photo: Kyle Terada for USA TODAY Sports