Dana White Fine with Gilbert Melendez Testing Free-Agent Waters

Jeremy BotterMMA Senior WriterFebruary 20, 2014

Gilbert Melendez, right, and Diego Sanchez fight in the second round of a UFC lightweight bout in Houston, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Menendez won in a unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Gilbert Melendez is one of the more prominent free agents to leave the UFC and sign with a competing organization in many years.

Melendez, currently ranked No. 2 in the UFC's lightweight division, signed a term sheet earlier this week with Bellator. The UFC has the right to match the deal and keep Melendez in the fold, but thus far they have not done so.

White told the media on Thursday afternoon that he's fine with Melendez trying to earn fair market value.

"Gilbert's out there testing the market," White said. "Good for him. I don't have any hard feelings for Gilbert Melendez."

White was not so kind to Bellator owners Viacom, however.

"Guys are trying to f--- get out of that place. They got these contracts you can't get out of. Look at what they did to Eddie Alvarez. Eddie Alvarez fought once in two years," he said. "They promised all kinds of things that they never had. The difference is, we don't sue our fighters. If a guy wants to try to move on with his career and test the waters, we don't sue them. We don't jump in and start suing our fighters."

Alvarez returned to Bellator last year after an extended legal battle with Viacom. Sources have previously told Bleacher Report that Alvarez only signed a two-fight contract with the company, however, and will be heading to the UFC after his next fight against Michael Chandler this year.

Dec 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA;   UFC president Dana White at a press conference to introduce the new digital platform UFC Fight Pass at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

White was sympathetic to Alvarez's plight and turned his aim toward Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, a frequent and favorite target of the mercurial promoter.

"That dude's out of his f--- mind," he said."Nobody can f--- deal with those guys. Viacom will sue you 'til you f--- bleed. Sue you 'til you bleed. That's a whole other ballgame over there. Everyone wants to talk like the UFC are bullies? They're the f--- bullies over there. They've got these contracts you can't get out of."

Melendez's move, while depriving fans of seeing him face off against the best lightweights the UFC has to offer, is also a sea change in mixed martial arts. If Bellator begins aggressively pursuing the best free agents available, it would stand to reason that fighters and their bank accounts will benefit.

White seemed fine with the idea of Melendez and others testing the free-agent market.

"He's out there testing the waters, man. That's how this s--t works," he said. "Is it a bad thing? I thought this is what everybody wanted."