Melendez negotiated with Bellator MMA after talks with the UFC stalled (Photo by Dave Mandel, Sherdog.com).
Report by Resolution Sports
Currently ranked number two in the UFC, former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez (22-3) has agreed in principle to a multi-fight, multi-year deal with 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 & CEO Bjorn Rebney stated. “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.”
When Strikeforce came to a close just over a year ago, Melendez stood as its final lightweight titleholder. The Santa Ana native was considered by many to be the best lightweight fighter in the world, a claim that could still be made despite a controversial loss to then UFC Champion Benson Henderson in 2013.
"As soon as I was a free agent, I had my team call Bellator, and Bjorn made an amazing offer that would allow me to reach my goals," Melendez responded on Twitter. "It's an opp. to be a part of something special and I could make history testing myself against some of the toughest LWs in the world. If the UFC wants me, they have the right to match. I'll let the fans know more as soon as it's settled."
The announcement of Melendez agreeing to terms with Bellator MMA comes after contract extension talks with the UFC stalled this past week. The change of events led UFC President Dana White to say publicly to reporter Aerial Helwani that if Melendez did not reach a deal with UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta very quickly, he “better start looking elsewhere.”
While a deal has been reached between Melendez and Bellator MMA in principle, the UFC still holds the rights to match any offer he is given.
We will continue to update this story as it develops, right here at ResSports.com.