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BJ Penn Turned Down UFC Fight With Gilbert Melendez
I can’t think of a major personality in sports that lies more to his media than Dana White. The UFC president’s latest bust comes a little over a month after denying that BJ Penn vs. Gilbert Melendez was on the table. The president now admits that fight was indeed on the table.
If there is one thing that bugs me about Dana White it is his consistent lying to the MMA media. It’s not the lying that is so bad. What gets me is when he vehemently denies a report or rumor, attacks the writer for reporting it, and yet later it is revealed that the report or rumor was right. At some point the MMA media just have to ignore anything this guy says and just ignore the guy completely. However that is another rant for another day.
When White was asked about the fight by MMAJunkie.com he said.
“I tried to do [Melendez vs. Penn], but it was at the time when B.J. was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not fighting for a while.”
Amazing! I say amazing because Melendez’s manager Cesar Gracie casually mentioned that a fight between Penn vs. Melendez was in the mix back in March. Here is what Cesar told Tatame.com when it came to Melendez’s future fight plans.
“Melendez’s situation is complex right now. We still don’t have an opponent, date or place set. They said he could fight in San Jose but it’ll probably change. They mentioned Josh Thomson but then said it was not going to happen. It depends on the relationship between Dana White (UFC president) and Showtime (TV channel that broadcasts and managers Strikeforce). That’s the problem. I spoke to Joe Silva (UFC’s matchmaker) and he told me maybe some UFC fighters will go to Strikeforce. We would really like to see him fighting Pettis or BJ, but we are still not sure about what’s going to happen.”
Here is what Dana said when he was asked about it at the time.
“That’s not true. That’s absolutely not true. But I have been talking to B.J. Penn. I talked to B.J. Penn last week and it was the first time that B.J. and I talked since his fight. He’s just chilling right now. He wants to relax and figure out what he wants to do with his career. I’m working on Melendez. Melendez is all over my a$$.”
There are a couple of things at play here. Remember a few months back when there were several reports of Melendez close to signing with the UFC? Even Dana at the time mentioned something about Melendez moving over. I expected it to happen, it sounded like Melendez did when talking about it, yet he never made the move. My hunch is that the plan was to move Melendez over with a big fight against Penn (like Zuffa did with Overeem in matching him up with Brock). Once the Penn fight was off the table it didn’t make sense to move Melendez into a division that is already muddied when it comes to the title picture.
At the same time, the statement by Gracie would seem to indicate that Penn could have moved to Strikeforce. I don’t think that ever would have happened. I can’t imagine the UFC giving up the pay per view money made on a Penn vs. Melendez fight by having the fight take place on a Strikeforce show. Yet once again, a lot of what Gracie said at the time is now looking like the manager was being completely candid so who knows. I would say there was virtually no chance of the fight taking place in Strikeforce but who knows what kind of deal with Showtime was on the table.
It also appears that Melendez will be sticking around Strikeforce as long as there is a Showtime deal. If the UFC were going to pull Melendez over, it looks like that would have happened several weeks ago. It is a bit of a shame because I think Melendez is in his prime and would do really well in the UFC. Melendez was the first Strikeforce fighter to publicly call out the UFC fighters and yet at the end of the day, nothing came out of it.
The big positive here is that White and Zuffa recognize Melendez’s talents and are trying to find the best opponents for him. Unfortunately they are going to have to start looking outside of Strikeforce if they expect to find anyone that can give the Strikeforce lightweight champion a run for the money.