Bellator MMA has signed Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez, the wife of UFC lightweight Gilbert Melendez.

Bellator director of communications Danny Brener confirmed the news with Bleacher Report on Thursday afternoon.

Melendez, 31, is a longtime muay thai artist who has competed for Scott Coker-promoted kickboxing cards in the past. She is now beginning her transition to mixed martial arts. She formerly competed at 115 pounds but will move up to flyweight for her MMA career. 

But before she does, she will compete in a kickboxing fight on Bellator’s upcoming hybrid “Dynamite” show September 19. The event will feature Bellator’s cage next to a GLORY kickboxing ring on the arena floor, and the show will consist of both mixed martial arts bouts and kickboxing matches.

A four-man tournament to determine the next Bellator light heavyweight contender will take place, and the show is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between current champion Liam McGeary and challenger Tito Ortiz.

“I’m very honored for the opportunity to fight on such a big stage with a great promotion and great promoter. I actually fought for Scott Coker before Gilbert and we both have a great relationship with him so I feel very comfortable with this situation,” Melendez said. 

“Even though I haven’t been super active as a fighter I have never really stop training and look forward to testing my skills as a Muay Thai fighter and a Mixed Martial Artist,” she continued. “My goal is to go out there and do my best and make my daughter, my family and team proud.”

Melendez began competing in striking battles nearly a decade ago, fighting in “smoker” (unsanctioned) events. She ran up a 4-1 amateur record before turning professional; her current pro record stands at 2-1. In her last bout, she defeated Maia Stevenson, the spouse of former UFC veteran Joe Stevenson.

She is a crisp and dynamic striker; those close to the couple have joked that she is a better striker than her husband. And she has spent years training in other facets of mixed martial arts with her husband. 

Keri and Gilbert welcomed their first child in 2010 with the birth of Leylakay. The couple married in 2010, and she has served as a crucial part of managing Gilbert’s gym, the El Nino Training Center, in the San Francisco area.

When the gym opened, it was a small space in the Bayview District with a living area above a single training room on the first floor. Several years ago, they moved to a new, much larger location, and membership numbers have exploded.


Jeremy Botter covers mixed martial arts for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. 

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