Not that he was being selfish, but Gilbert Melendez’s recent contract negotiations were mostly about taking care of himself and his family.
But he doesn’t have a problem with the messages he has received from other fighters thanking him for setting a precedent.
“I wasn’t trying to start anything, just doing what I thought was best for my future,” Melendez said during a stop in Las Vegas last week.
Melendez, a lightweight contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, did what athletes all over the sports world do each year. After a big performance in the final fight on his contract, a fight of the year-award winning decision victory over Diego Sanchez in October, his management team aggressively tried to parlay the performance into a hefty deal.
When they didn’t feel the UFC was offering fair market value, Melendez’s team decided to find out what exactly that meant. Melendez decided to sign a multifaceted offer from rival Bellator Fighting Championships. The deal included television and media opportunities outside the cage with Bellator’s parent company, Viacom.
Eventually, the UFC decided to match the offer and Melendez will serve as a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” and fight for the lightweight title later this year.
“I got fair market value and I’m very happy where I’m at,” Melendez said. “My goals aren’t some sort of crusade, but I feel like I’m a great fighter and also a smart business man. I have a great team behind me and I knew what I was getting into. I knew I was on the last fight of my contract and I had a goal to perform well, get a nice raise and fight in the UFC together. It worked out for me.”
Melendez said while he’s very happy how things worked out, he didn’t see potentially ending up in Bellator if the UFC decided not to match as that great of a risk.
“What I wanted was what was best for my future at the end of the day, regardless of where that was, I stand by that,” he said. “Of course, you’re happy to be on the biggest platform in the world. But no matter what, I was confident my legacy would be fulfilled one way or the other.”
Melendez will fight champion Anthony Pettis, likely in December.
■ GASTELUM EMBRACES SPOTLIGHT — Like other winners of “The Ultimate Fighter,” UFC welterweight Kelvin Gastelum lost out on the ability to rise through the ranks under the radar.
He’s just fine with that.
The undefeated welterweight will fight Rick Story at UFC 171 in Dallas on Saturday. A win would hasten his rise up the rankings in the crowded division.
“I like to challenge myself and this is a great way to do that and really find out where I am,” he said. “If this proves I belong at the top, then I’ll move on. If not, back to the drawing board just like everybody else.”
Gastelum won Season 17 of the reality show last April with an upset win over Uriah Hall. He then scored a first-round submission win over Brian Melancon in August.
He’s preparing for this fight by training with Johny Hendricks, who is fighting Robbie Lawler for the vacant welterweight title on the same card.
Gastelum previously spent time in former champion Georges St. Pierre’s camp, helping him prepare to fight Hendricks.
The event will air on pay per view, beginning at 7 p.m.
■ HIERON, DANZIG RETIRE — Two UFC veterans with Las Vegas connections announced their retirement from mixed martial arts competition this week.
Welterweight Jay Hieron, a Las Vegas resident, and lightweight Mac Danzig, who spent several years in the middle of his career living and training in the city, both announced their decisions in separate announcements.
Hieron, 37, last fought in February 2013 when he lost to Tyron Woodley. The former college wrestler walks away with a 23-7 career record.
Danzig, 34, was 5-8 in 13 fights in the UFC. He ends his career with a 21-12-1 record overall.
In announcing his retirement on social media, Danzig cited long-term health concerns as a major influence on his decision to retire.
Also, light heavyweight Cyrille Diabate announced his retirement following a loss to Ilir Latifi on the UFC Fight Night 37 card Saturday in London.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.