Gilbert Melendez signs with Bellator, UFC maintains matching rights

February 14, 2014

We wrote yesterday about the rocky contract negotiations between Gilbert Melendez (22-3, 1-1 UFC) and the UFC.  Today, Bellator shocked the MMA landscape by announcing a multi-fight deal with one of the best lightweights in the world in Melendez, though the UFC currently maintains matching rights.



Gilbert Melendez sits atop the UFC’s lightweight division. With victories over Josh Thomson, Diego Sanchez, Shinya Aoki and Jorge Masvidal, “El Nino” is ready for a new crop of challengers as the Santa Ana native has agreed to a multi-fight, multi-year deal structure with Bellator that can pit Melendez against some of MMA’s best, including Eddie Alvarez, Michael Chandler, Will Brooks, Dave Jansen and a host of top lightweights from around the world.
“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,” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney. “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 UFC currently holds matching rights on Melendez.


Payout Perspective:

Bellator’s announcement today was pretty shocking and caught many in the MMA landscape off-guard.  Nevertheless, it’s a key strategic move for Melendez, who is trying to maximize his market value.  This is a classic example of pinning bidder A versus bidder B, and illustrates the importance of having more than just one key player in the MMA landscape for fighters.  Whether Melendez ends up in Bellator or UFC matches Bellator’s pay and signs back with the promotion, it will be a win/win for Melendez in the short run.

In the long run, for a fighter who is as exciting as Melendez, you risk making a choice that may seem near-sighted, and could miss out on potential fight of the night or performance bonuses in addition to base pay, which could end up surpassing Bellator’s proposed pay. Although the exact numbers of the deal are not available at this time, MMAPayout will report them as they become available.

Winning a title and getting a push from the UFC is invaluable for a fighter, but Bellator will do their best to match the same benefits as they tried to do with with Eddie Alvarez, such as offering exposure on Spike TV, featured in a potential PPV down the line against either Eddie Alvarez or Mike Chandler, two of the best lightweights in the world, and certainly other Viacom opportunities.

The ball is now in the UFC’s court, and it’s up to them to determine if they want to retain Melendez and match what Bellator is offering or let him walk away to a competitor.

6 Responses to “Gilbert Melendez signs with Bellator, UFC maintains matching rights”

  1. Jason Cruz on February 14th, 2014 9:10 PM

    Based on what is found in the standard UFC contract from the proposed Eddie Alvarez deal, the UFC will have 15 days to match and if it does not, Melendez will have 10 days to accept Bellator’s offer.

  2. michael on February 15th, 2014 1:20 AM

    I would imagine that ppv-points could be interesting.
    If Bellators contract would say “Yeah sure we garantee ppv percentages of x%” (even if they never have a ppv or never reach many buys whatever), then would the UFC have to match those numbers?

  3. LeonThePro on February 15th, 2014 6:28 AM

    Interesting turn of events. This is funny:

    @GilbertMelendez won’t be punked by @danawhite if not careful our other guys will be leaving @ufc for @BellatorMMA

    — Cesar Gracie (@CesarGracieBJJ) February 15, 2014

  4. Sampson Simpson on February 15th, 2014 9:02 AM

    Spike TV > FS1, FS2, FS3, FS4

  5. BrainSmasher on February 16th, 2014 4:19 PM

    LMAO!! Ceasar Gracie wants to use that threat? Does he know what happen to past gyms that tried to play that game? I think the UFC can live without Shields, Gil, and Nate. Will Rousey throw everything she has down the drain to stand with them? Does she think this success will carry over out of the UFC when she didn’t reach this level in SF? Those guys and Rousey need the UFC way more than the UFC needs them.

    IF I was part of Gracies team I would GTO out of his gym and management. Who throws their entire team under the bus to leverage 1 non champions contract? Going to risk their career and dream to get Gil a few more dollars? I would be telling him to fuck off! I would lmao if Dana released every one of them like he did Golden Glory fighters.

  6. Diego on February 19th, 2014 5:17 PM

    I don’t like it when guys start negotiating in the media. Too many feelings get hurt and bridges get burned. Cesar Gracie needs to take it down a notch and try to be professional.

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