Gilbert Melendez came to the UFC in 2013 and lost a split decision to then champion Benson Henderson, having defended his Strikeforce lightweight title via split decision over Josh Thomson. His latest fight was a decision win over Diego Sanchez in a fight of the year candidate.
When it came time to negotiate a new contract with the UFC, things looked rocky.
12 Feb, Ariel Helwani:
"I spoke to UFC President Dana White yesterday. He said, ‘I’m done with Gilbert. I like Gilbert very much, but I don’t like his manager.’ He has the same manager as GSP. Dana said: ‘Being GSP’s best friend doesn’t make you a good manager.’ Dana said if Gilbert wants to fight in the UFC, he should call Lorenzo quickly and he also should start looking elsewhere.”
14 Feb, Bjorn Rebney:
“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. 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.”
20 Feb, Dana White:
"Gilbert is out there testing the market. Good for him. 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."
23 Feb Melendez signs with the UFC.
Now details have emerged on the contract, via MMAFighting:
1. At least 75 percent of Melendez's fights are guaranteed to be on pay-per-view.
2. Pay-per-view points kick in at a lower threshold than they do for any other contract in league history. PPV points are a standard means of compensation for the most elite fighters in the sport. The UFC pays the fighter a percentage of the PPV buys, that steps up if the event is extra popular. Details of contractual arrangements around PPV points are not public, but a few times the contracts have been revealed during court proceedings.
For example, Eddie Alvarez's contract offered $1 for each PPV between 200,000 and 400,000 buys, $2 per buy between 400,000 and 600,000, and $2.50 per buy over 600,000. Alvarez would have received no extra money for PPV buys under 200,000.
When Alistair Overeem signed with the UFC, his contract reportedly called for a $2 PPV bonus per viewer, "for all revenues received by UFC-Zuffa for telecast of the Lesnar fight in the United States, Canada or over the internet in excess of $500,000."
Exactly what Melendez's numbers are is not know publicly.
3. Melendez will also earn PPV points whether he is in the main event, co-main event, or the main card.
Going forward, Gil Melendez will be one of the highest paid fighters in mixed martial arts.
Bjorn Rebney reached out to MMAFighting, and said he was happy for Melendez.
"It's my understanding that the UFC matched the deal we agreed to with Gilbert," said Rebney. "While I haven't yet spoken to Gilbert's management team, I have heard from various sources that the UFC matched our offer. We have a stacked lightweight roster and Gil would have made a great addition to it, yet I'm glad he was able to go out, explore the free agent market and get paid what he deserves. That's what the free market system is all about. I'm happy for Gil, that through this process he was able to ensure long term financial security for himself and his family. That's what the fighters that put it all on the line inside the cage deserve."
In an extensive interview with FOXSports, Melendez reflects.
"There was the Bellator offer and right away our team got together and Lorenzo reached out and really expressed his passion for the sport and his interest for me and how UFC is the place for me," said Melendez. "Him and my team got together and just started hashing things out and we came to a great deal. I'??m a happy man right now. I'm a very happy man."
"My legacy means so much to me and being able to prove I'm No. 1 and all that, but sometimes you have to put those emotions aside to think of your future and to think of your family and it's a hard thing to do, but it has to be done. That's kind of how everything started, but now I'm able to do the same thing and fight for the title as well and the show."
"The UFC is the biggest stage in the world, they have the best fighters in the world and the toughest lightweight division in the world. It's the Mecca for MMA, no doubt in my mind. Bellator's a great organization as well, but this is where I wanted to be. There's no other place I wanted to be."
"I think (Anthony Pettis) has been keeping (the title) warm for me. I think that belt's mine, I really do think that belt is already mine. I really do think I beat Benson but I do look forward to fighting a guy like Anthony. He's a guy who comes to fight and he's part of the evolution of the sport right now and it's an interesting matchup."