When Bellator announced a few weeks ago that they had come to an agreement with UFC lightweight Gilbert Melendez, the MMA world was abuzz with talk of other UFC fighters jumping ship, and what this all means for the sport. What does it all mean for the sport? Well, it at least partially means that when the UFC tells you to “look elsewhere”, it’s not unfathomable to think you can do so. In Gilbert Melendez’s case, his shopping around earned him a larger, more diverse contract than he was seemingly originally offered by the UFC.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney spoke with reporters after the conclusion of Bellator 110, and shed some light on the nature of the deal between Melendez and Bellator.
“Yeah, I know they did [have to offer Melendez a TUF coaching spot], because being part of the Viacom family and having Spike as a partner, a legitimate partner of mine and ours, we can offer things to fighters like we’re doing with ‘Page in terms of the theatrical stuff and the reality programming he’s done, and we offered some of those things to Gil. So there was no way that they could match the deal without giving Gil on-camera opportunities, and huge pay-per-view participation.”
Rebney also stated that to the best of his knowledge, Melendez would have the best pay-per-view participation in the UFC. Although Rebney said he would have preferred to be able to have Melendez fight in the Bellator cage, he was ultimately glad that the negotiations netted a larger benefit for Melendez.
“I’ve known Gil for a lot of years, and I like him. I would have preferred he fight here, but you know what? He’s going to have financial security for his family, and he’s not going to worry about ever buying a house and paying off debts, and having security long term. Good for Gil.”
With Michael Chandler and Ed Alvarez gearing up for their lightweight title trilogy fight, a trilogy that has already seen two of Bellator’s most exciting fights to-date, Rebney said the potential matchups in the lightweight division for Melendez were enough to try to get him in the mix.
The type of deal offered to Melendez won’t be the new standard however, but if a fighter enters free agency that might be a good fit for Bellator, Rebney said they’d put together a similar deal.
“When a guy like Gil comes up, I think you can pretty much count on the fact that we’ll make the move, and put a great offer in front of him and we’ll see where it goes. It won’t be a consistent thing.”