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Gilbert Melendez says that he never wanted to leave the UFC

Gilbert Melendez is opening up to the media about his contract negotiations now that he's firmly back under the Zuffa umbrella and he's saying that he never intended to go.

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

It looks like all is well in the Melendez household. After a tough couple of months of back and forth negotiations that saw a planned fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov fall by the wayside and Dana White tell Melendez to "look elsewhere," Melendez has officially resigned with the UFC. And to hear him tell it it sounds like he got everything that he wanted. Melendez spoke to MMAJunkie about how he felt when he got the news that the UFC had matched Bellator's offer.

"It was on a conference call and I had to put them on mute," Melendez said. "I was just smiling and yelling and dancing around like a little girl. I was just really excited."
"It's a tough thing to do, but I never wanted to walk away," Melendez said. "I never 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."

It's the development of an interesting dynamic in UFC fighter relationships. Very few men and women will find themselves in Melendez's position of being a proven, successful fighter at the height of their career and able to field other offers outside the doors of Zuffa, but the fact that Melendez could make it happen at all (and the stark contrast in results when compared to Dan Henderson's two attempts) show that fighters may just be finding that little bit of necessary bargaining power that Bellator brings as an MMA competitor.

I don't think we're going to see any major shifts in the contractual or monetary landscape; the UFC generally has a lot more to offer their fighters, but it's something new to see the UFC actively hold on to a fighter that was publicly thinking about leaving the organization (although in this case he was publicly told to think about leaving it). And who knows? Perhaps it'll add an extra talking point between Pettis and Melendez when they face off as TUF coaches.

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