People may not always agree with the way the UFC conducts business, but at least they’re not “bullies” like Bellator, according to Dana White.
The UFC president has vehemently deflected criticism over the past few days following a falling out with Gilbert Melendez in negotiations for a new deal.
During an appearance on UFC Tonight, White claimed he was done trying to do business with Melendez’s manager, and he suggested the lightweight contender either talk to UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta or “look elsewhere” for a job.
Those comments apparently didn’t sit well with Melendez’s team. Cesar Gracie, Melendez’s longtime coach, took to Twitter (h/t MMAFighting.com) and stated that Melendez “won’t be punked” by White and company. The post has since been deleted from Gracie’s Twitter.
Last week, Melendez agreed to terms on a contract with one of UFC's biggest rivals, Bellator Fighting Championships. The UFC now has the choice to either match Bellator’s offer sheet or risk losing one of the best lightweights in the world.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney revealed in an interview with MMAFighting.com that the Melendez deal was just the first of many more to come. The UFC is no longer the only show in town, and Bellator, who is backed by a financial juggernaut in Viacom, is prepared to go after every big name on the market.
In White’s eyes, signing a deal with Bellator is like signing your entire career away, a point he made in a pre-fight media scrum for UFC 170:
If Melendez f-----g signs a deal with those guys, he ain’t going anywhere. Nobody can get out of those f-----g deals they have, and Viacom will sue you until you f-----g bleed. That’s a whole other ballgame over there. Everybody wants to talk about the UFC like we’re bullies and whatever.
They’re the f-----g bullies, and they got these contracts that you cannot get out of. Look at Eddie Alvarez. … Who doesn’t want to jump that ship? You think [Michael] Chandler wants to be there? Chandler’s sitting there going, ‘I just signed that f-----g deal. Oh my god, why did I sign that deal?’ Nobody wants to be there. They’re in these dirty, nasty contracts that you can never get out of.
Alvarez’s contract troubles with Bellator have been well publicized over the past year. After receiving an offer from the UFC, the Bellator lightweight champ made the wrongful assumption that he was on his way to greener pastures.
During an interview with Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter, Alvarez explained that he was under the impression that Bellator would let him walk for a high offer, but they would pony up and match the numbers if the UFC attempted to low-ball.
Unfortunately for the lightweight star, things never panned out that easily. Bellator fought tooth and nail to retain the rights to Alvarez’s contract and match the UFC’s offer sheet. The contract looked solid from a numerical standpoint, but numbers only tell half the story.
Bellator could match the UFC’s pay-per-view percentage on paper only, but in reality, Alvarez would have made more money competing on a UFC pay-per-view card due to an obvious gap in sales. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Bellator is far behind the UFC in the pay-per-view business.
This still didn’t stop Bellator from slapping Alvarez with a lawsuit and forcing his hand on a settlement.
Who should Gilbert Melendez sign with?
UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman has also spoken out about a bad experience he had a few years ago when mulling over a Bellator contract. In an interview with the New York Post (h/t MMAFighting.com), Weidman revealed that he nearly signed a multifight deal with Bellator back in 2010.
While perusing the contract, Weidman’s uncle, a lawyer, found a tucked-away clause that could potentially keep his nephew locked into the deal several years after the original agreement. Weidman admitted to feeling “betrayed” by Bellator over the “sneaky” contract.
White echoes Weidman’s feelings:
Guys are trying to f-----g get out of that place. They’ve got these contracts that you can’t get out of. Look what they did to Eddie Alvarez. Eddie Alvarez has fought once in like two years, was promised all kinds of things that he never had.
The difference is we don’t sue our fighters. If a guy is trying to do something with his career, move on and test the waters, we don’t sue him. We don’t jump in and start suing our fighters. People are trying to jump that ship, not jump onto that ship. [Rebney] is out of his f-----g mind. Gilbert is out there testing the market, good for him. I don’t have any hard feelings towards Gilbert Melendez.
The UFC still has the option to match Bellator’s offer for Melendez. Whether they choose to invoke that clause remains to be seen.