After months of negotiations, it appears that Gilbert Melendez and the UFC cannot reach an agreement regarding the terms of his new contract. That being the case, here are three special stipulations Melendez must have asked for to cause such a rift with his new promotion.
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Word broke on yesterday’s UFC Tonight that lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez and the UFC have hit a snag in their contract negotiations, to the point that Dana White has suggested that Melendez “start looking elsewhere.” With little information currently available on the details of Melendez’s negotiations, we figured we might as well speculate what wacky stipulations “El Nino” asked for in his new contract to kill some time. Here they are, from most to least likely.
#1 – “Anderson Silva” Money
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This whole negotiation aside, you gotta imagine that Gilbert Melendez is flying pretty high right now. No, that is not a dig on the fact that he trains with the Diaz brothers.
The final Strikeforce lightweight champion is on the heels of a brilliant performance against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, in a fight that was almost immediately and unanimously heralded as “Fight of the Year” (and possibly decade) by fighters and fans alike. Hell, even Dana White praised the brawl as “insane” in the evening’s post-fight press conference, gushing “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.”
In addition to his epic war with Sanchez, Melendez has also won 8 of his past 9 contests, including four straight Strikeforce title defenses and wins over the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Josh Thomson. In fact, the only fight Melendez has dropped in the past five years was a controversial split decision loss to then lightweight champion Ben Henderson in his promotional debut (a.k.a a typical Bendo win).
Point is, Melendez has hit his prime as an athlete at 31 years of age and probably thinks he is worth every bit as much as the $175K per fight he was making in Strikeforce, if not more. And while Lyoto Machida is the only fighter to ever use the phrase “Anderson Silva money” in a negotiation, we bet that the UFC’s evaluation of Gilbert’s worth didn’t even come close to matching up with his own. Based on the deal Luke Rockhold (another Strikeforce champion) received upon signing with the UFC, we’d be willing to bet that Melendez was looking at roughly a 30% pay cut, which couldn’t have sat well with him.
#2 – Unlimited Rematches with Ben Henderson
It’s payback time, all the time.
Like we said, Melendez’s only loss since 2008 came in the form of a split decision loss to former lightweight champion Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 7. As is the case with all of Bendo’s fights, it was an incredibly close and oft underwhelming scrap that was scored one way by fans and media types and the other way by the judges. “I’m heartbroken,” lamented Melendez in the post-fight press conference, “I thought I won [rounds] 1, 2, and 5 for sure.”
Despite immediate cries for a rematch (again, commonplace for a Bendo fight), Gilbert was given Diego Sanchez and Henderson was given Anthony Pettis, who would snatch his belt away by submission in under five minutes at UFC 164.
The fight may have lost some heat by now, but we’re willing to bet that Melendez wanted as many opportunities to wipe that smug smirk off Henderson’s face as humanely possible in print. Being that UFC 40 served as a symbolic abolishment of “The Vendetta Clause” present in all UFC contracts in years prior (not a real fact), it would be easy to see why the promotion would be unwilling to fall back on old policy in the case of Melendez.
#3 – A Company-Backed Restraining Order Against Diego Sanchez
There is no bonus for Fright of the Year. Just sheer terror.
You might not know this, but Diego Sanchez is f**king crazy. Like, certifiably, spend-a-weekend-at-Charlie-Manson’s-commune crazy. So crazy, in fact, that word has it “The Dream” has been harassing Melendez for a rematch ever since their battle for the ages at UFC 166 (which Melendez won via unanimous decision) – first via Twitter, then via temperamental pigeons carrying messages written in blood (again, dude’s crazy), then via perching in Melendez’s daughter’s window at night and reading her bedtime stories while dressed as the faun from Pan’s Labrynth.
Some of that may have been made up, but the point remains. Melendez has been a wanted man ever since UFC 166, and likely has to look over his shoulder every time he goes grocery shopping, takes his kids to the zoo, or parks his car at the far end of a dimly-lit parking lot. That sort of thing begins to wear on a man’s mental wellbeing, no matter how badass they are. Perhaps Melendez figured that the only way to get Sanchez off his back was to write a restraining order against him right into his contract. Not wanting to place one of his most exciting fighters in a possible legal snafu, Dana White certainly shot this notion down immediately. I’m guessing he then tore up Melendez’s contract and asked “Do you want to be a f*cking fighter?” to which Melendez replied “Yes, but for God’s sake, the man has been watching me sleep for the past four months.” You know, something along those lines.
So does anyone think that we have seen the last of Melendez in the UFC? And where would you like to see him wind up should he fail to come to terms with his new promotion?