Do you remember back in March when the rumor mill suggested reigning Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez could make his next title defense against UFC star BJ Penn (Pictured)? How about when UFC president Dana White come out shortly after to kill the chatter by reiterating Zuffa, LLC’s two mixed martial arts organizations would continue to operate as separate entities?
Well, following Thursday’s “UFC on FOX 3” pre-fight press conference, White revealed he did in fact attempt to arrange the blockbuster bout and it was Penn’s retired state that pumped the breaks on the shootout.
“I tried to do [Penn vs. Melendez], but it was at the time when BJ was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not fighting for a while,'” White shared.
When Strikeforce was stuck in a longstanding stalemate during contract negotiations with Showtime, White stepped in to ensure an extension was reached. After coming to terms on a guaranteed 12-month, eight-fight agreement in December, White professed to have big plans for Strikeforce because he was going to take on a more prominent role with his sister company.
However, after Showtime turned a deaf ear to all of White’s suggestions on improving the production value of Strikeforce’s live events, White claimed he’d stand clear of the hexagon and stay in his Octagon lane. Unfortunately for “El Nino,” it appears he was collateral damage from their disagreement.
“Gilbert Melendez is a Strikeforce fighter,” White flatly stated. “He’s been great in dealing with it. He wants to come over here, and he wants to challenge himself against the best, and I know a lot of other people want to see it, too, but he’s in that Strikeforce deal.
“The thing that sucks for Gilbert and that’s disappointing is that I was 100 percent fired up and gung ho to go over there and work on Strikeforce. The whole thing fell apart. It just didn’t work out.”
Melendez owns an impressive 20-2 professional record and is perfect through his past six scraps. He is considered by most as the top 155-pounder not competing in the UFC.
The 30-year-old is scheduled to complete his trilogy against Josh Thomson on May 19th.
As for Penn, White claims the former multi-divisional UFC champion will eventually cut his retirement short. When he does decide to resume his illustrious career, it will most likely take place in the welterweight division.