That's because UFC President Dana White went on record over the weekend to express his desire to get "El Nino," who was (is) expected to face Jorge Masvidal later this year, into the Octagon "as soon as possible."
And Melendez (via MMA Weekly) is "more than willing" to work his way up to a UFC title shot:
"It’s exciting that the boss definitely wants me over to the UFC, because it’s definitely a good move for me. As far as I’m concerned (Jorge) Masvidal is the next guy on my list, and I’m focusing 100-percent on him, so before I get too excited, I’m just focusing on tearing that guy up. But definitely my goal is to be in the UFC, so if we can get that there sooner than later, I’m all for it ... I’d be there in a heartbeat. Money doesn’t really mean nothing at this point, my money’s good. I’m happy with my money. If he told me to come fight for the same price, I would do it ... It would be nice to get a title shot, but if I need to come through it and work my way up, I’m more than willing. Part of being number one is beating everyone, every match-up. I think I can beat every style out there. It doesn’t really matter to me."
Melendez hasn't seen the inside of a cage since a successful title defense against Japanese "Crusher," Tatsuya Kawajiri back in April. That win marked "El Nino's" fifth in a row and created a matchmaking conundrum for his Zuffa employers.
While Masvidal is a credible threat to the division crown, he doesn't carry the same name value of his UFC brethren, which may force the promotion to explore other options if they hope to get a sellable fight while Melendez still has the strap.
The same reason Nick Diaz was supposed to fight Georges St. Pierre and why Alistair Overeem is fighting Brock Lesnar. Otherwise, you could have a situation like Anthony Pettis, where he loses his momentum (and a big money fight) at the hands (or takedowns) of a gatekeeper.
Strike while the iron is hot.
Gilbert Melendez to the UFC? More than likely. But do you give him the winner of "Edgar vs. Maynard III?" Or someone else? How about winner of "Henderson vs. Guida?" Or "Guillard vs. Lauzon?"
What say you?