Gilbert Melendez agrees to terms with Bellator MMA and UFC has the right to match the offer

Former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez had his UFC contract expire recently and he has agreed to a multi-fight, multi-year deal structure with Bellator MMA.

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

The contract agreement was announced by Bellator MMA on early Friday and the UFC will have the ability to match the offer.

In the announcement of the signing, Bellator MMA Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney stated that Melendez’s management team reached out to them and they began to figure out how to bring the fighter to the organization.

“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 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.”

Melendez (22-3) is currently ranked at the #2 title challenger in the UFC media rankings and is coming off a victory against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 in October. Prior to defeating Sanchez, he made his long awaited UFC debut in April of last year and faced Benson Henderson for the UFC lightweight title. The fight would last all five round and two of the three judges scored the fight for Henderson, but scored the fight for Melendez.

Melendez did have matching rights in his UFC contract and they will have 15 days to decide whether they want to match the contract or let him go to Bellator MMA. Following the announcement of “El Nino” agreeing to terms with Bellator MMA