Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor
Why the UFC Wants Him as Champ
Before Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez, I spelled things out clearly. Mexico is a potentially strong market for the UFC, which is desperately seeking fighters to hype up south of the border.
It's why Erik Perez was fast-tracked to a bantamweight title shot. More importantly, when Melendez vs. Sanchez turned out to be a barn-burner, it was dubbed not a "war," but a "Mexican world war" by Dana White, per MMA Fighting.
With Cain Velasquez constantly injured, the UFC needs another fighter of Mexican descent to appease fans. Gilbert Melendez is a prime candidate.
How It Can Happen
Melendez is an elite lightweight and has been in the division's top three for a good nine or 10 years now. His fight with Sanchez raised his stock to the point where he is, at the very most, two fights away from another shot at the belt. For whatever reason, his fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov fell through, but he is likely going to fight this spring against a top lightweight.
While you might be thinking the UFC is well off with Anthony Pettis as champion, the fact is that despite his high-flying style and bad-boy looks, he can't draw flies. No, the fact is that he doesn't connect with any particular demographic that watches the UFC. One guy who does, though, is Donald Cerrone.
"Cowboy" is well-established as one of the lightweight division's best and most exciting fighters. Unlike Pettis, he falls into a combat sports character archetype: that of the hard-workin', gun-totin', cowboy hat-wearin' everyman. It's a hot demographic these days that appeals not to the guys in the front row but to the blue collars in the cheap seats.
The fact that the UFC has him fight so frequently against beatable opponents shows just how valuable he is to the organization.