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Gilbert Melendez says he never wanted to leave the UFC

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Gilbert Melendez says teammate Nate Diaz wanted to fight Anthony Pettis on the set of TUF 20. (Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports)

Top lightweight contender Gilbert Melendez may have initially signed with Bellator, but he said he never truly wanted to leave the UFC.

"It’s the best organization in the world, has the best fighters in the world, it’s where I wanted to be, but I had to put that aside to think about my family and my future. …I had to weigh it out and I had to explore my options. I got to a point where I had a good plan for my future, and I just had to hope that the UFC would come along with me so I could get to that point and still be with them.”

"El Nino" says that he is "extremely happy" with his new UFC contract. In fact, he was so happy when he heard the news that the UFC was re-signing him that he jumped for joy.

“It was on a conference call and I had to put them on mute,” Melendez remembers of when he received word.

“I was just smiling and yelling and dancing around like a little girl. I was just really excited.”

Before Melendez and the UFC came to terms on a new contract, UFC president Dana White publicly voiced his displeasure at working with Melendez' management and said that he was handing over the reigns of the negotiation to organization owner Lorenzo Fertitta. Given that Melendez succeeded in both staying with the promotion he wanted to and in doing so for terms that made him "dance around like a little girl," one of the take aways for observing fighters may be that they need to seek out savvy and strong management for themselves.

The former Strikeforce champion says that having his own management serve as negotiators and a buffer between he and the UFC was crucial to getting the deal done. “I have a great team and I left most of it to them,” Melendez said.

“They’re a great management team. I voiced my opinion, and they helped me keep my emotions in check. When it comes to stuff like this, you have to take your emotions out of it and think of your family. It’s about more than just the title shot.”

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter.

 

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