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Gilbert Melendez to Bellator doesn’t change the MMA landscape at all

Gilbert Melendez

Gilbert Melendez

We reported earlier this week that top five lightweight Gilbert Melendez had agreed in principle to sign with Bellator MMA after negotiations with the UFC fell through. The UFC still holds matching rights, so the deal isn’t complete and he very well could re-sign with the UFC. If he goes to Bellator, there are many people, like Dave Meltzer, who think the move would be a game changer.

The only thing that would be changing would be the potential zeros on the checks of Melendez and his ranking as a top lightweight.

I pointed out earlier this week that there are only two marquee fights for Melendez in Bellator. Those two fights would be against current Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez, or former Bellator champion Michael Chandler. I should point out that neither fighter is a consensus top five lightweight at the moment.

I should note that Bellator’s offer hasn’t been made public, but we do know that Melendez made a base salary of $175,000 for his title fight against Ben Henderson at UFC on FOX 7. That salary was likely part of his Strikeforce contract that carried over when Strikeforce closed up shop in January 2013. Melendez was (1-1) in the UFC with the victory coming in a “fight of the night” performance against Diego Sanchez in his last outing which completed that Strikeforce contract. It should be noted that Ben Henderson only made $200,000 for his title defense win against Gilbert Melendez, and that figure included a $100,000 win bonus.

So from a business standpoint, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense for the UFC to pay a fighter like Melendez that amount of money when he’s not the current champion. If the UFC asked Melendez to take a 50% cut in pay, he would still make roughly what the two top lightweights in Bellator are making at the moment(not including potential undisclosed fight bonuses many UFC fighters receive for the performances or sponsorship packages that fighting in the UFC could influence).

If the UFC decides not to match Bellator’s offer and allow Melendez to leave, it doesn’t really change anything in the grand scheme of things. All it does is inflate the payroll for Bellator lightweights when Michael Chandler only made $95,000 in his last fight as Bellator lightweight champion against Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez made $160,000 for the bout which included a $80,000 win bonus.

It’s not like the UFC hasn’t allowed more high profile fighters to leave the fold to fight for other promotions. Former UFC champion Rampage Jackson is now on the Bellator roster. He was and is a bigger name in MMA to casual fans when compared to Melendez.

Do you remember when Roger Huerta declined to sign with the UFC and Bellator scooped him up? Do you remember Cheick Kongo, Josh Neer, Lavar Johnson, Diego Nunes, Marcus Davis, Houston Alexander, and Ben Saunders? They all left the UFC and signed on to fight in the Bellator promotion. Granted, these fighters were not top five in their weight class at the time, but the UFC has a splendid track record of determining when and if a fighter is expendable. Hello Rampage Jackson, King Mo Lawal, Roger Gracie, Thiago Silva, and Tim Sylvia.

We’ll just have to wait and see if the UFC feels like Melendez fits that mold in the coming weeks.

  • Peter Banh

    Instead of Pro MMA Now, the name should be changed to Pro UFC Now. Gilbert Melendez made a great move by signing a contract with Bellator. It’s clearly that Bellator offered a much better deal than UFC willing to. Anyway, UFC still has a matching right. Either way, it’s a win win situation for both the fighters and MMA.

  • KelvinHunt

    I don’t see how you think the piece is pro-UFC…I just laid out the facts and what’s known(we don’t know what Bellator offered so it’s impossible to say Bellator offered a ‘better’ deal).

    It’s a win win in that Melendez has another option than the UFC…the point of the article was that Melendez going to Bellator isn’t a game changer for Bellator or the UFC…and well…it’s not.

  • Peter Banh

    Given UFC is bigger and more popular company and if Melendez refused to sign UFC contract but willing to sign Bellator contract then by logic Bellator contract must be better. I think this could be a game changer if Bellator steps up to compete with the UFC by giving better contracts to fighters. At the moment, most UFC fighters get pretty low salary given how much they have to sacrifice in the cage. They deserve much more and hopefully with competition from Bellator, fighters can get better contract and salary. Again, this is a win win situation for both the fighters and MMA.

  • KelvinHunt

    Doesn’t mean the contract is better…it could be that Bellator offered something similar money wise…promised him that they would help him build his “El Nino” brand(they won’t) and couple that with him just tired of Dana White for him to sign with Bellator. Have you seen most of Bellator’s fighter payroll’s?…In 2013…they still had fighters on their cards making 1,500….or 3K to show and 3K to win….they had guys on their the MAIN portion of their Spike TV cards not making 10,000..so…they may be able to get a fighter here and there…but it all revolves around what I said in the original piece…if Zuffa deems Melendez expendable…they’ll let him go…the UFC is still in the driver’s seat…since they have matching right’s…if Bellator can ever get to the point of forcing Zuffa to pay fighters more than they deem them worth….THEN that would be a game changer….we’re a long way from that…and really…I’d like to see Bellator pull off like 3 successful PPV’s before I’d say they were any type of threat to be a game changer, etc.

  • Peter Banh

    The advantage Bellator has over UFC is they can offer fighters like Gilbert with PPV point, something UFC would refuse to match. Super stars like Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, Chris Weidman who are getting PPV point from UFC will probably stay there. For fighters like Nate Diaz and Rory McDonald who are good but don’t get ppv point from UFC probably willing to join Bellator if Bellator contract offers slightly better salary plus PPV point and the UFC will probably won’t match it. You can argue that UFC PPV point is not the same as Bellator PPV point and I agree but if UFC want to match those contracts then UFC has to give the fighters PPV point. Bjorn Rebney said Bellator is going after elite fighters with star power by offering them good contracts, I hope this is true. It would be interesting to see how it plays out.

    Bellator will have their first PPV soon with Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler as the main event. I think it would be a good one as their previous 2 fights were classic. If Bellator can stack up more good cards for the event, it could be a big success for their first PPV. It won’t be as big as GSP, Silva or Jon Jones PPV events, but if Bellator can get more than 100,000 buys, it would considered a success.

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