Former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight title contender, Gilbert Melendez, has officially been released by the promotion, according to MMA Fighting.
Gilbert (37) has lost five straight fights inside the Octagon dating back to 2014. Most recently, “El Nino” made his long-waited return to action after a near two-year break to face Arnold Allen at UFC 239 this past July, losing via unanimous decision after three rounds of action.
Making his UFC debut back in 2013, Gilbert — who was coming in as the last 155-pound champion for Strikeforce — received an immediate title shot against Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 7. After five rounds of action, “Smooth” managed to hold on to his title, escaping San Jose with a split-decision win.
Six months later, Melendez returned to face Diego Sanchez at UFC 166, as both men proceeded to deliver a “Fight of the Night” performance, with “El Nino” coming out on top on the judges’ scorecards. That, unfortunately, was the only win for Gilbert under the UFC banner, as he went on to loss his next five to the likes of Anthony Pettis, Edson barboza, Eddie Alvarez, Jeremy Stephens and the aforementioned Arnold Allen.
Now that he is no longer under contract with UFC, it opens up the door for Gilbert to fight elsewhere. One of the more obvious landing spots would be Bellator MMA, as his old boss, Scott Coker, is currently leading the charge for the Viacom-owned promotion and isn’t a stranger to signing UFC vets.
Of course, there is always ONE Championship, Combate Americas as well as various other promotions who would be willing to take a chance on “El Nino” given his long history as one of the best 155-pound fighters in the history of the sport.
That said, Melendez did allude to the fact that taking a long break to focus on other aspects of his life following his last defeat could be in order.
“As for me I’m looking forward to now investing more of my time into my team and of course I will continue my studies as a student of martial arts,” he continued. “The journey will continue for #teamElNiño and the #skrappack because we are deep.”
That said, perhaps a change in scenery could be what Gilbert needs to get back to his winning ways.