Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez was a controversial decision away from winning UFC gold, but a contract dispute caused friction between the top lightweight and the UFC.
Now, Melendez has signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC’s rival promotion, Bellator MMA.
“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,” Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney said, via MMAjunkie.com. “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.”
The good news for fans who are hoping to see Melendez remain in the UFC is that the promotion holds matching rights.
If they choose to match the offer from Bellator, then Melendez can remain in the UFC. If not, Melendez will be fighting his next bout under the Bellator banner on Spike TV.