Melvin Guillard knows you might not like him. Truth is, he doesn’t really care.
At this stage in his nine-year MMA career the 27-year-old Louisiana native just asks that you don’t judge him for the mistakes of his past. Whether that be testing positive for cocaine after a loss to Joe Stevenson in April, 2007, losing back-to-back fights and getting cut from the UFC that same year or maybe just coming across as overly cocky during his time a contestant on season two of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Guillard says he’s over all that now.
Smack in the middle of the greatest stretch of his professional life – he’s won seven of eight fights dating back to 2008 and just trumped top contender Evan Dunham in January – Guillard says he’s grown up. Moving his training camp to Albuquerque to work with legendary coach Greg Jackson has put him on the fast track not only to contender status, but also maturity, he says. These days Guillard makes it clear tht he’s ready for great things and if he picks up a few fans along the road to an eventual title shot, so be it.
CraveOnline caught up with Guillard during his four-day appearance at bike week in Daytona Beach, Florida last week to talk about where “The Young Assassin” sees himself fitting into the stack and turbulent UFC lightweight division.
(Ed. Note: This interview was conducted just days before the UFC announced that Guillard will next take on former WEC lightweight Shane Roller at UFC 132.)
Chad Dundas: Let’s just talk about the way things are going in the UFC right now. You’ve won four straight and I think seven of your last eight. I have to imagine you’re pretty happy with where you’re at right now.
Melvin Guillard: Yeah. I’ve just been working hard and staying focused, pretty much. I don’t know what they have for me next, whether it’s going to be a title fight or someone else. I was hoping to fight George Sotiropoulos, but he lost to Dennis Siver (at UFC 127), you know? I already beat Dennis Siver, so I don’t know where we sit as far that goes.
CraveOnline: It’s getting kind of crazy at lightweight right now.
Melvin Guillard: It’s real crazy.
CraveOnline: If Anthony Pettis beats Clay (Guida), I don’t even know if they’ll still give him that shot at the title they promised him.
Melvin Guillard: Yeah, I know. The way it’s looking it doesn’t really sound like they want to give him the shot like they said they would. I don’t know and in truth I don’t put too much (thought) into it. I just stay ready to fight. When they call me and say, hey you’re fighting so-and-so, I’ll just be ready.
CraveOnline: What do you think the biggest difference is for you, that’s allowed you to have so much success over the last couple of years as compared to, say, 2007 when you lost two straight?
Melvin Guillard: Being with Greg Jackson’s camp, just being around those guys. They’re definitely a good influence on my life, not just in the cage but away from the cage too. I think being around positive people over the last two years has really helped me a lot.
CraveOnline: Tell me about Greg. What does he do that makes him so successful with so many different guys and so many different kinds of fighters?
Melvin Guillard: I just think it’s his personality, man, his attitude. He has the brightest personality. He’s never mad. Even on his bad days, you’d never know. He makes you feel confident in yourself to go in and do a job and one that’s a pretty hard job. He gives you so much confidence that it’s kind of unreal sometimes. For me, that’s been the biggest thing. In the past, I would be really antsy or really nervous (headed into a fight) and I would get caught in a crazy submission or something.
Since I’ve been with Greg, even when I get put in a bad situation in the cage I’m just as calm as possible. I’m so calm, it’s like not even cool how calm I am, and I think that’s where my success is coming from. When I enter a fight I’m confident enough to think I’m going to win. I tell everybody that I think I’m the best 155-pounder in the UFC and I’m confident enough to say that now. Before, I probably wouldn’t have been able to say that. Now I’m overly confident to say I’m the best in the UFC.
CraveOnline: Talk about some of the criticism, though. Does it bother you to hear Dana White call Jackson’s guys “safety first” fighters and stuff like that?
Melvin Guillard: If you really look at how this year started out so far – and I’m one of them right now – we’re still winning all the bonuses. If you look at the percentages of which gym takes the most bonuses, we’re that gym. Obviously, we must be doing something right because the UFC’s not just going to give bonuses away to boring fighters. A lot of people criticized me after the Jeremy Stevens fight but what people don’t understand is that you have to have a game plan to fight certain people. Sometimes your game plan might not work out the way you want it to, but at this stage in the game what matters is getting the W.
A lot of people criticized the way I fought Jeremy Stevens, but then he turned around and knocked Marcus Davis out and then Marcus got cut. Had that been me, I could have been right there with him, I could’ve gotten cut too. I like Marcus, he’s a good friend of mine but seeing that fight happen, it shut a lot of critics up as far as questioning me about why I fought Jeremy the way I fought him. But it comes with the job. You’re going to get criticism, you’re going to get people that are gonna ride with you, the people who don’t like you and the people who keep jumping back and forth. That’s just how it works. Look at the last Anderson Silva fight. Everybody was booing him on the way out (to the cage) and then he front kicks Vitor Belfort in the face and now everybody’s cheering for him. That’s a prime example right there of how wishy-washy some fans are.
CraveOnline: In the Dunham fight, did that go perfectly for you or did anything surprise you about how that went down?
Melvin Guillard: I was definitely surprised that I knocked him out as early as I did. I always go for the finish and just right out of the gate the first right hand that I threw rocked him. I knew he was hurt, so I just stayed on him. I take nothing from Dunham though, he’s one of those guys (that) if you give him a chance to get comfortable he’ll pick you apart. I think that’s the one thing I did that nobody else has been able to do, I didn’t give him a chance to get comfortable.
CraveOnline: Was that the game plan, to try to jump on him early?
Melvin Guillard: No, not really. It was really just to go in there, stick and move and keep from getting taken down. To hit him early, it just happened. Luckily, I kept hitting him and kept landing, so then I thought, ‘Shit, I’m doing good business here.’ It worked out pretty good for me.
CraveOnline: Obviously, I’m sure you trained to keep the fight on the feet, but were you surprised that he wasn’t able to put it on the ground more than he did?
Melvin Guillard: He was kind of out on his feet a little bit. When he grabbed me with a single leg, he had it, but it wasn’t tight. The more I moved my leg and kept hitting him the looser it got. He never really had me fully except that one time he put me on the ground. (That time) he had me pretty tight for a minute, but … I tried to pick my shots and when I was ready to get up, I was able to do it. Honestly, that whole fight was surprising to me. In the end I was like, either I’ve gotten that much better or I just got lucky tonight. That’s kind of how I feeling, you know?
CraveOnline: It’s such a stacked division at 155, if you take the title out of the equation is there anybody you’d really like to fight?
Melvin Guillard: Well, I’d like to fight Pettis. I’d like to fight guys like Ben Henderson. I want to fight the guys at the top of the heap. For a long time I fought a lot of guys who were like newcomers or guys who weren’t at the top of their game. Now I feel like being one those elite guys, I should be fighting other elite guys. It’s all fair for the fans, as well. If I’m an elite guy and I’m fighting No. 15 or No. 16 guys and I’m going in there and destroying them, the fans are going to get to the point where they think I should be fighting better competition. Once again, that’s where the criticism comes in. So I just want to fight top competition. I thought Sotiropolous was definitely one of the top contenders and then Siver destroyed him in his own hometown. It doesn’t get any better than that – to fight in your own country, your own backyard – and, I mean, he got outclassed.
CraveOnline: Since you’ve been in the UFC for so long, is it frustrating to see a guy like maybe a Pettis, Sotiropoulos or Henderson who come along after you and then start getting all the press?
Melvin Guillard: No, it doesn’t bother me, man. A lot of stuff bothered me early in my career when – at least in my mind – I thought I deserved it. Looking back on my career and all the trouble I got into, all the bullets that I dodged, it is what it is. I don’t hate on any fighter. Anybody that’s getting press, whether it’s good press or bad press, it means you’re doing something right. For a long time I was wrapped-up in the bad press and people doubting me. For me, even in high school and growing up, that was always my drive was people telling me I wasn’t going to be something or I was just a loser who was going to end up back on drugs. I think for me that just plays over and over in my head. Now, I just feel like I’m going to rise above all of this, that’s why I said being around Jackson and (coach Mike) Winklejohn and (judo coach) Dr. Ron Tripp, you can’t help but carry yourself as a honorable man.