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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
There was a moment last month where it appeared Gilbert Melendez's time with the UFC would come to an unfortunately premature end, but he credits a conversation with UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta for swaying things around.
Melendez said on Monday in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that Fertitta called him after news broke of a contract offer from Bellator, and that in large part allowed them to come to terms on a new deal to stay in the UFC.
"Lorenzo did hop on the phone and expressed passion for sport and how much he wanted me to be part of it," Melendez said. "I really appreciate that. The things he said on the phone, it's business of course, but ultimately he has a real passion for the sport, and of course, my passion for the sport as well, you try to put your emotions aside during this transition and this business deal, but emotions did come out a little bit, but I did appreciate his passion for the sport."
"It was a turning point, I like what he said, he made me feel good, he made me feel welcome there."
Melendez now gets to coach The Ultimate Fighter 20 opposite UFC Champ Anthony Pettis, and though it's going to be a longer wait between fights than he'd like, it's an opportunity for which he's quite excited.
"I've been there before," Melendez said of Pettis' current injury recovery. "I took a year off. I'm older in this sport, I get banged up here and there. I've done it before, taken a year off and come back, I'm okay with it, and also, what I'm okay with is Anthony Pettis will be out longer and is also come back from an injury. That makes a little bit easier. I'd like to fight a little bit sooner, but it's the way it worked out, I'm going straight into a title fight."
Penick's Analysis: Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta play a bit of the "good cop/bad cop" routine with fighters, which is how things worked out here. As soon as White said he was bowing out of the conversation, it became more likely something would get done, and the UFC made the right move in keeping Melendez on. Though there's a title fight delay because of Pettis' injury and TUF 20, Melendez is a deserving foil to Pettis and that will be a very good fight whenever is winds happening.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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