Gilbert Melendez (Sorta) Signs With Bellator—but UFC Can Still Match Offer

Gilbert Melendez
HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 19: Gilbert Melendez celebrates after defeating Diego Sanchez (not pictured) by split decision in their UFC lightweight bout at the Toyota Center on October 19, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

(Photo via Getty)

Bellator and top UFC lightweight Gilbert Melendez have agreed to terms in what would be the Viacom-owned promotion’s highest profile signing to date—if they can wrest “El Niño” from Zuffa, that is.

While Bellator and Melendez have an agreement (rumored to be $200k per fight, PPV points, a $25k signing bonus, Spike TV show appearances, AND a role in a Viacom movie), the UFC still holds the rights to match Bellator’s offer. But if the whispers are true, that might be a tall order.

The schism between Melendez and the UFC was made apparent earlier this week when Dana White griped about Melendez’s contract renegotiation.

“It’s not going well,” White told MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani. “I couldn’t care less about it anymore. I like Gilbert Melendez, I don’t like his management.” White was referring to Rodolphe Beaulieu—Georges St-Pierre’s manager who also manages Melendez. White also advised Melendez to start looking for a job elsewhere. Apparently he heeded White’s counsel. Other Cesar Gracie fighters might start doing the same, if a tweet (which has since been deleted) by Gracie himself is anything to go by.

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Melendez informed the world via twitter that he’d divulge more details as soon as plans were settled.

If Melendez finds himself in Bellator, it’ll be a landmark signing for MMA’s perennial runner-up—the first time they poached a relevant, top-10, still-in-his-prime fighter from the UFC. Bellator’s two previous biggest signings—Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz—elicited laughs from the media. Successfully bringing Melendez into the fold will do no such thing.

We’ll provide more updates as we get them.