Gil Melendez was a key figure in Strikeforce's plan to challenge the UFC. Thus, by Dave Meltzer's calculations, he had a higher base pay in Strikeforce than did any UFC lightweight at the time. When the UFC purchased Strikeforce in 2011, the amounts on the contract transferred over.
Melendez received $175,000 in show money vs. Benson Henderson, and presumably a higher figure still for his extraordinary fight with Diego Sanchez in October. Melendez' management and UFC president Dana White could not come to terms, leading to ZUFFA CEO Lorenzo Fertitta taking over the negotiations for a time. Eventually Melendez came to terms with Bellator. The UFC has the contractual right to match Bellator's offer, but has not yet made a decision.
At a UFC 170 pre fight media event, White addressed the issue.
"Gilbert is out there testing the market. Good for him," said White as transcribed by FOXSports. "I don't have any hard feelings towards Gilbert Melendez. Not a big fans of the guys I was dealing with, but this happens sometimes. So you know what happens? I don't deal with it."
White said given his worth, he understood Melendez's decision, and couldn't quite understand all the uproar of whether he would return.
"Here's the thing that's funny about it is it's either one or the other," said White. "'We're a monopoly, guys can't make more money, guys can't do this.' Now the guy's out there, it's free trade. He's out there testing the waters, seeing what he's worth and now it's like some big f---ing issue. 'He's the #1 guy. You're not going to sign him...ahh'. He's out there testing the waters man. This is how this s--- works.Is it a bad thing? I thought this is what everybody wanted? 'There's no money. UFC has all the money and these guys can't do this'. Now this is a big, f---ing negative issue. I don't get it."
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