Strikeforce had yet another of its champions re-up with the company with Gilbert Melendez signing a new multi-year deal. Gil currently sits as the #3 lightweight in the world in the USA TODAY / SB Nation Consensus Rankings. Before we get into the meat of the story, here's a bit from the press release:
Two-time STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight Champion (155 pounds), Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez (18-2), has signed a new, multi-year agreement with the San Jose, Calif. based world championship Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion.
"STRIKEFORCE is my home, they’ve always been like family to me and I’m looking forward to continuing my career with them," said the talented, exciting, 5-foot-9, 27-year-old protégé of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Cesar Gracie and Muay Thai legend Jongsanan Fairtex. "There are a lot of great fights out there for me – lots of challenges. I can’t wait to get back into the cage, do my thing and show the world that I’m still at the top of my game.’’
2010 was the first year of Melendez's career since turning pro that he only fought once, winning a dominant decision victory over top Japanese lightweight Shinya Aoki.
There will be some predictable reactions to this news. Some people will call Melendez out for not trying to move to the UFC, others will complain that he would make more money leaving Strikeforce, etc. This is not a case of a championship clause keeping Gilbert in the same promotion, this is a new multi-year deal which shows that he feels that his career is best off in Strikeforce rather than riding out contractual obligations and jumping ship. Could that be to avoid the tougher fights in the UFC? Possibly.
But it could also simply be that Melendez sees Strikeforce as a promotion where he is already one of their top names and at the top of a division. A move to the UFC would likely mean having to start over from near scratch, building up his name in a very deep division full of men who are already in the position to challenge for the title. Gilbert wouldn't be in the same position of a Jake Shields (who got his title shot after only one win) because the lightweight division has not yet come close to being "cleared out" like the UFC's welterweight division was at Jake's signing.
As for the money? Strikeforce is not paying these top guys chump change. Melendez, Nick Diaz and people at that level in Strikeforce are making more money per fight than they're likely to make in the UFC. And the argument that there is no sponsorship money in Strikeforce is simply incorrect as well. There is plenty of money to be made for fighters and, in many cases, more money than there is in the UFC.
This isn't meant to initiate some sort of "which is better?" argument over signing with SF or UFC, but simply to make it clear that there are reasons beyond "being scared of losing" that a fighter would choose to remain with America's #2 promotion.