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UFC pays to keep a winner like Gilbert Melendez

By Zach Arnold | February 24, 2014

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Bellator made a smart move in attempting to sign free agent Gilbert Melendez. Suddenly, Dana White was all “we’re not a monopoly!” and “I thought this is what you guys wanted?” in bunches of rhetorical flourishes.

It was time for the UFC to put up or shut up. They had to put up. They really had no other choice. Letting Melendez walk away would have emboldened Bellator to go after more UFC fighters.

The good news is that it appears there will be some PPV points at stake. The bad news? The UFC continues to believe that The Ultimate Fighter is the key vehicle to build up big PPV fights. TUF doesn’t matter as a vehicle if you have coaches that don’t have dynamic personalities like Ronda Rousey or Miesha Tate, and even the ratings for their series were low.

It appears that any prospects of an Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo fight are out the window. Melendez has a real shot of winning the Lightweight title, so it’s a gamble for UFC if they are banking on Pettis retaining the belt and then doing the Aldo superfight.

As for Bellator, I suspect they will make some future offers to UFC Lightweights. Getting in a bidding war with UFC over Light Heavyweights or Heavyweights will be too pricy given Viacom’s budget for Bellator. However, the fighters in the smaller weight classes cost less in the current MMA marketplace and thus become more attractive to make offers to. I don’t blame Bellator one bit for making an offer to Melendez. A trio feud with Melendez, Chandler, and Alvarez would have really made Bellator’s year in 2014.

The one thing that I remain annoyed with is the continued narrative that somehow big bad Dana was the roadblock in a fighter not being able to sign a new deal but generous, benevolent, patient, all-being Lorenzo Fertitta saved the day as the voice of reason and came through with a new deal. Dana isn’t doing anything out of turn without the permission of Lorenzo or Frank Fertitta. As Randy Couture once stated, Dana is the laser beam that Lorenzo points at to play bad cop while he comes in as Superman to save the day. Continuing to buy into this narrative is as foolish as buying into the narrative that Sig Rogich-founded WSOF isn’t an unofficial UFC bastard child that can function as a stalking horse to sign fighters that otherwise would have considered signing with Bellator.

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 23 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

23 Responses to “UFC pays to keep a winner like Gilbert Melendez”

  1. nottheface says:

    One thing I don’t see anyone bringing up is the fact that Gil was only able to negotiate this deal because the judges scored it for Bendo. If he had won the belt and was still the champ when his contract ended then he would have been looking at a hree fight extension kicking in from the champions clause and he would have been compelled to sign for a lesser amount without testing free agency.

  2. Rob Maysey says:

    That’s true. . . and in fact, the UFC has never publicly admitted that the Champion’s clause is only valid for 1 extension–in fact, the opposite. They acknowledge it has “never been litigated” and may not be legal–but they don’t change it.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Dana White always says he wants these champion vs champion super fights…. And then goes out of his way to make sure they don’t happen.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    This whole thing feels like one big choreographed event. Not on Bellator’s part…. They were the pawns. But on the UFC’s part.

    How does Melendez go from a fighter the UFC is “willing” to let go and test the free agent market…..

    To a title challenger and a spot on TUF?

    It stinks of a lot of things….

  5. Jonathan says:

    45 Huddle,

    I am 1,000% with you on that.

    Also, I’d like to buy you a drink.


    • 45 Huddle says:

      Why is that?

      • Jonathan says:

        Because we are two old warriors who no longer have a battle to fight.

        The sport we once passionately loved is now a shell…something that no longer interests us.

        • Dave says:

          Yeah, I used to disagree with 45 all of the time and now he’s as beaten down and blah as the rest of us are on the whole thing and we’ve all kind of met in some weird middleground area.

  6. king famous says:

    I feel myself cozying up to a bar stool next to you and 45

  7. Jonathan says:

    I was once a Forum Moderator on, I used to stay up late and watch PRIDE feeds over the web, bought PRIDE PPVs, and even followed the UFC when it became the big kahuna.

    Now I’d struggle to tell you the name of all of the UFC champions.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I even try to say to myself…. Well, maybe it is just us old timers thinking the past was better. But then I really look at the differences…. And things have gone down hill.

      Just look at the cards for March 2014. There are 3 cards that are just complete garbage. They have one good fight on them and everything else is filler.

      Combine that with decisions being at a record high. With champions like GSP leaving. With all of the Dana White BS….

      And it just isn’t enjoyable anymore. And I was somebody who was still enjoying this sport even about a year ago.

      • cutch says:

        The UFC have put on many fight cards much worse than those throughout the years, go look at the UFC events page and look at some of the Fight night cards, some guys might be bigger stars now but they weren’t when the fights were made and most weren’t headlined by top 10 light heavyweights but by top 25 Welterweights and Lightweights.

        You can look at PPVs as well, Rashad Evans and Michael Bisping once headlined a PPV card, at the time neither guy had a top 20 win, Randy Couture and Mark Coleman with a combined age of 92 headlined another PPV.

        Who cares if a fight is a decision? it doesn’t make the fight bad and in fact most of the greatest fights in MMA history went to a decision. Out of the top 5 MMA fights last year, 4 of them went to a decision and I would say 2013 was the UFC’s greatest year fight wise, especially at the top of the card, I don’t remember them ever having as many epic fights in a calendar year.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Some of the cards were not the best, but look at the overall card quality this year. This is no other period in time where it has been so bad. The fights in March look horrible by comparison to anything during the Zuffa Era.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          The talent has dropped appreciably from the days when real men like Chris Cope and Peter Sobotta were regularly doing battle in the cage. /sarcasm

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Yes, lets use a few random fighters names as proof.

          The cards in March…. Ask even the hardcore fans and they probably couldn’t tell you who at least 25% of those guys are on the fight nights.

          During that earlier time, fans like me knew who 90% of the fighters were.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          The fighters are just as good now. People knowing who the fighters were then is a testament to the UFC getting people to watch total junk on TUF back in the day and thinking it was great.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Nobody is debating the quality of the fighters. The fighters today are much better then the fighters of 10 years ago. The champions of 10 years ago probably couldn’t even get a title shot in today’s MMA.

          But the quality of the cards has gone way way down on a relative basis. Look at Henderson/Rua 2 Fight night. It has exactly 4 guys in the UFC Top 15. You can’t find a card from 4 years ago that was so diluted for it’s time frame.

          They have literally increased their roster by 100 fighters in a few months. And it is still gonna grow even more with Bantam, Fly, Female Bantam, & Female Straw expanding.

          Through the first 2 months of 2014, 136 fighters have competed in the UFC. Of those, 61 have been in their first or second UFC fight. That is 44%.

          It would be like a major sports league like MLB going from 30 teams to 40 teams in one season. People complained about diluted play when 2 teams were added. Imagine how bad it would be with 10 more teams in a season?

          Too much expansion….

        • edub says:

          Rashad had wins over Bonnar and Lambert at the time. Both were more than respectable scalps circa 2005-2006.

          Both Rashad and Bonnar also came from TUF as winners, and at the time TUF was a force in not only viewership but was thought of as a place where major talent came from.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          Oh, I agree. They expand their roster with the intention of only filling cards. They have no plans or ideas of what to do with almost anyone they sign. Some of these guys are total retreads they released in the past who are actually worse now. The problem isn’t running more shows, the problem is that they don’t have any direction. They aren’t building guys, and they’re taking so many out of the regional promotions that they aren’t remotely developed when they get the call up.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          It would make sense to dilute their fight roster if they were doing a weekly Wednesday Night live show. Get people to watch every week and build from there.

          But they are in no man’s land right now. Too many shows on random days on too many stations. It’s confusing….

        • edub says:

          Not only that, but the fight pass is not as good as what the WWE’s proposed network pass is. No PPVs, and can’t see fight cards on regular network television anymore (that are on the fight pass).

      • Bad News says:

        This was always the Zuffa vision for the sport. You championed them forever until you realized that they sucked all the life out of it. Ra-Ra, UFC! You are a moran.

        There is no longer any competition. Bellator & WSOF are UFC-lite.

  8. Chromium says:

    Excellent point about the leverage helping the fighters at lower weight classes. The Lightweights in the UFC are increasingly big names (not many PPV headliners but there are only a handful of good PPV headliners in the whole company right now), and they deserve to be paid like it. I know Nate Diaz is a bit of an outlier so I won’t use him, but Donald Cerrone makes $50,000k to show and is one of the best paid LWs in the whole company, and he still gets paid less than Ben Rothwell or Brandon Vera.


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