Former UFC title contender and Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez has been released by the UFC after a string of losses.
FightBookMMA reported the unfortunate news that Melendez did not survive the UFC’s latest wave of cuts. The promotion last week released 12 fighters from its roster, and now Melendez can be added to that list.
Melendez was widely considered one of the top-five lightweights in MMA between 2006 and 2013. He first won the Strikeforce lightweight championship in 2006 with a win over Clay Guida and later engaged in a memorable trilogy with rival Josh Thomson, winning the trilogy 2-1. Overall Melendez was a two-time Strikeforce lightweight champion and defended his belt five times. He was also the interim Strikeforce interim champion and defended that belt one time. He also fought for PRIDE during this time period, as well.
In 2013, Melendez came over to the UFC after the promotion bought Strikeforce and was given an immediate title shot against then-UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Melendez came up short in that fight, losing a controversial split decision. He then fought Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 in one of the greatest fights in UFC history, winning a unanimous decision in an absolute war. That turned out to be his lone win in the UFC.
Melendez then signed a free-agent deal with Bellator, but the UFC matched the offer and gave him another title shot against Anthony Pettis. Melendez lost that fight by submission, then lost decisions to Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Jeremy Stephens, and Arnold Allen to finish his UFC career with a 1-6 record, including a five-fight losing streak to end it. Melendez has given a longer leash than most fighters, but ultimately he just didn’t get the job done and the UFC decided to release him.
Now that he’s a free agent it will be interesting to see what Melendez does next. At 37 years old, he may opt for retirement. He may also consider signing with Bellator again or perhaps head to ONE or RIZIN. Either way, he’s still one of the most respected lightweights of all time, and easily one of the best Strikeforce fighters ever.
Where do you think Gilbert Melendez will go now that he’s been released by the UFC?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 11/11/2019.