Gilbert Melendez comments on new UFC contract: 'There's no place else I wanted to be'

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

"El Nino" also believes he's the true lightweight champion of the world and says Anthony Pettis is only keeping the title warm for him until they meet later this year after coaching season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).

Gilbert Melendez broke the hearts of the powers-that-be at Bellator MMA after he opted to re-sign with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

This, after the former Strikeforce lightweight champion had already agreed in principle to a fight contract with the Viacom-owned mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion (details), UFC's biggest rival.

But after UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta took over contract negotiations -- seeing as how Dana White no longer wanted any part of them -- "El Nino" found himself staring at a deal he simply couldn't refuse.

In addition, building on his legacy by fighting the best 155-pound fighters in the world was something Melendez says he can only accomplish by competing inside the Octagon.

"El Nino" talked about his new deal with FOX Sports:

"My legacy means so much to me and being able to prove I'm No. 1 and all that, but sometimes you have to put those emotions aside to think of your future and to think of your family and it's a hard thing to do, but it has to be done. That's kind of how everything started, but now I'm able to do the same thing and fight for the title as well and the show. The UFC is the biggest stage in the world, they have the best fighters in the world and the toughest lightweight division in the world. It's the Mecca for MMA, no doubt in my mind. Bellator's a great organization as well, but this is where I wanted to be. There's no other place I wanted to be."

Aside from receiving pay-per-view (PPV) points with his new deal -- an incentive that could mean mega bucks for the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter -- Melendez received a title shot against lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. The fight will go down after the two men fulfill their duties as opposing coaches on season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).

According to Melendez, he still firmly believes that he's the rightful owner of the 155-pound title and that "Showtime" is only keeping the belt warm for him.

He explains:

"I think he's been keeping it warm for me. I think that belt's mine, I really do think that belt is already mine. I really do think I beat Benson (Henderson), but I do look forward to fighting a guy like Anthony (Pettis). He's a guy who comes to fight and he's part of the evolution of the sport right now and it's an interesting match-up."

TUF 20, which will air on FOX Sports 1, will begin taping on May 1, 2014, which means the championship fight between Pettis and Melendez won't go down until the later part of the year.

Better late than never.

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