As you all have heard, UFC lightweight contender and former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (22-3), has signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator (with the numbers undisclosed), after contract negotiations broke down between the UFC and Melendez’s management.
Not to worry, the UFC still has the right to match Melendez’s contract offer, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the UFC’s jam packed lightweight division; but there would still be a couple of good fights at Bellator, with Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler being the top lightweights there who would be contenders even in the UFC.
That aside, should the UFC match their rival’s offer on the 31-year-old leader of the “Skrap Pack,” or should they part ways with “El Nino?”
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Without hesitating, the answer would be “yes” for 99.9% of experts and fans in MMA. Melendez is exciting, driven, intense, and as UFC President Dana White would say, “Brings it every time.” But let’s take a closer look at the numbers and see if it makes sense from a business perspective.
Melendez’s last fight was one of the best ever at UFC 166 against Diego Sanchez, that won him Fight of the Night and was on the main card that featured Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos’ trilogy. Even with the heavyweight stars, Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson, the card had dismal PPV buys with 300,000 for the event.
In his first fight in the UFC, Melendez fought for the lightweight title right away, losing a close split-decision to former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, with their fight drawing in 4.7 million viewers on Fox.
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“El Nino’s” last fight for Strikeforce came against Josh Thomson, a split-decison victory where Melendez defended his title on the Barnett vs. Cormier event on Showtime, and had a household rating of 1.38 and 463,000 viewers and ranks sixth all time in viewership.
Going back one more fight to Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal, Melendez successfully defended his title against Jorge Masvidal and the Shotwime event had 460,000 viewers which ranks seventh all time.
Since MMA contracts are never fully disclosed, it’s hard to say what Melendez was making, but I would speculate he was bringing in anywhere from $75,000-$200,000 per fight with UFC/Strikeforce in his last few fights.
Does his pay versus his viewership ratings justify the UFC in matching Bellator’s offer to him? I’m not sure, I don’t know what he was asking for, nor what Bellator signed him to.
All I can say is that Melendez is one of the top lightweights in the world and he could be lightweight champion in any promotion, period.
The numbers are all there and they don’t lie, so you be the judge — but I am curious to see if Melendez was put on as the main event, say against Anthony Pettis or Jose Aldo, what would the ratings be then?
I think him fighting either of those two would do really well on a PPV event, but now it’s a waiting game to see if the UFC will counter Bellator’s chess move and make sure the Northern California fighter stays…
David Kano is lead writer for MMA Show News and co-host of The Hollywood MMA Show. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDKano.
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