Gilbert Melendez is undoubtedly one of the best lightweight fighters in the world, but it's quite possible his time as a UFC fighter could be coming to an end. At least that is the way things are looking at the current time.
"El Nino's" contract with Zuffa came to an end with his "Fight of the Year"-worthy battle with Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 last October in Houston. The former Strikeforce champion walked away with the unanimous-decision victory and entered his contract negotiations on a high note.
That said, it appears said negotiations are not going smoothly. Ariel Helwani reported on Wednesday's UFC Tonight that Dana White has apparently come to the end of the road on what he's willing to offer the "Skrap Pack" leader. Helwani reported the following via text conversation with the UFC President:
I'm done. It's not going well and I couldn't care less at this point. I like Gilbert Melendez very much. I just don't like his management. If Gilbert Melendez wants to fight in the UFC he better call Lorenzo Fertitta quickly, but he should also probably start looking elsewhere.
The 30-year-old Santa Ana, Calif. native is 1-1 since coming over from the now-defunct San Jose-based organization. He came out on the losing end of a debatable split decision against Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 7 last April, then picked up his first official win inside the Octagon by besting "The Dream" six months later.
Melendez's victory over Sanchez kept him a major player in the lightweight division's title race, but things stalled out shortly after. The UFC prematurely announced a bout between the Team Cesar Gracie fighter and Russian upstart Khabib Nurmagomedov for UFC 170, which eventually fell through due to the contract situation between Melendez and the promotion.
Should Melendez re-sign with the UFC he will remain a key factor in the title hunt at 155 pounds, but the clock on his time to do so seems to be ticking down.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.