(One day, you’re putting on one of the greatest fights in UFC History. The next, you’re fighting Ben Askren at a catchweight in One FC. *cries into whiskey glass* Photo via Getty.)
You guys remember Gilbert Melendez, right? You know, the Gilbert Melendez who was the final Strikeforce lightweight champion and one half of an amazing trilogy of fights with Josh Thomson? The Gilbert Melendez who came over to the UFC and beat then lightweight champ Ben Henderson but lost anyway because Ben Henderson? The Gilbert Melendez who put on a Fight of the Century performance against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166? Thought so.
Well hold onto those memories, Nation, because it looks like we should already start asking what could’ve been in regards to Melendez’s UFC career, young as it was. On last night’s edition of UFC Tonight, it was reported that, after months of attempting to negotiate a new contract with the promotion, Melendez’s management and Dana White have all but reached a stalemate. Said White:
I’m done. It’s not going well and I couldn’t care less at this point. I like Gilbert Melendez very much. I just don’t like his management. If Gilbert Melendez wants to fight in the UFC he better call Lorenzo Fertitta quickly, but he should also probably start looking elsewhere.
-At least DW managed to avoid calling anyone a “f*cking scumbag” or something of the like.
And now, a couple facts. Melendez was making $175K to show for his first two UFC fights, a figure that had carried over from his Strikeforce contract. He’s gone 1-1 in the UFC, with a controversial decision loss to Henderson at UFC on FOX 7 and the aforementioned FOTC against Sanchez at UFC 166. A fight, by the way, that Dana White lauded at the 166 post-fight press conference, stating “In the 13 years of being in this company, we’ve seen some amazing fights. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight like that. That fight was insane.”
While details are scarce on the figure Melendez was offered, you could probably guesstimate the UFC’s offer through simple compare and contrast. Let’s see…1-1…Strikeforce champ…how about Luke Rockhold? The final Strikeforce middleweight champion was making nearly $100K a fight until signing with the UFC, where his value was immediately downgraded to a $40K/$40K split.
It’s a significant pay cut for sure, and Rockhold is in arguably the same position as Melendez. Both are better known, marketable Strikeforce champs batting .500 in the UFC, so one would expect that they would be treated similarly in terms of salary. Even if Melendez was valued at $60K/$60K, that would still be over a 30% cut from his norm. Dan Henderson may have had to swallow his pride and accept such a deal, but Melendez is arguably in the prime of his career and might not be so willing to do the same.
It’s speculation at this point, I know. And personally, I say Melendez is worth whatever he’s asking regardless of the figure. But for now, let’s just hope that Melendez and the UFC are able to reach some sort of agreement, because you just know that if Bellator gets ahold of “El Nino” they will find some way to fuck it up.