In the past, the UFC’s Melvin Guillard was the epitome of youthfulness – his occasional over-aggressiveness, brash behavior and a somewhat stubborn attitude all did their job to polarize fans, while leaving all to wonder if Guillard would be one of the greatest “What-could-have-been’s” in the history of the sport. But as his experience in the fight game has continued to mature, so has the man himself. No where is this more evident than in the pre-fight demeanor of Guillard as he readies himself for lightweight newcomer Ronnys Torres at UFC 109.
“I’ve been through a lot in my career,” says 26 year-old Guillard. “I’ve had some ups and downs, but I use it to learn. I’ve made nearly every mistake I could make in the past, but I feel like I’m ready to come into my own a little bit.” According to Guillard, the formula for reaching that success is contained within his recent decision to seek out Greg Jackson, one of MMA’s most successful coaches.
“I’ve only been with Coach Greg for two-and-a-half weeks,” admits Guillard, whose interest in Jackson was piqued after noticing the unique way the coach spoke to Joe Stevenson during Stevenson’s fight with Nate Diaz. “When I got the footage [of Stevenson vs. Diaz] to get ready for my own fight with Diaz, I could hear the way Greg was talking to Joe, keeping him calm and stuff. That inspired me to seek him out—I could tell he was a great trainer just by the way he kept Joe calm during the fight.” According to Guillard, harnessing that ability to remain cool under fire was just one of many things he could do to improve as a fighter.
“I have to get the mental game down, and that’s what Greg is helping me out with,” he admits. “I need to work on not getting down on myself when a fight’s not going my way. That always stresses me out and I make bad decisions and it leads to mistakes. Everybody’s seen that in the past. Every fight I’ve lost has been one that I’ve been winning, but because of bad decision-making and the pressure, I tended to make mistakes or give up on myself during the fight. Working with Greg is definitely helping me with that aspect of my game.”
Also playing a role in the remaking of Melvin Guillard is Joe Stevenson himself, a man who once dealt Guillard a swift dose of defeat. “My jits [jiu-jitsu] is an area that I need to improve in, too,” offers Guillard. “Right now I’m living and staying with Joe Stevenson while I’m in Albuquerque and we’re working on things around the clock. He’s showing me all his ways to escape guillotines and D’arce chokes and all that, so right now I’m continuing to get better in the areas I’m lacking, which is my ground game, my jits.”
Given that upcoming opponent Ronnys Torres’ main strength is jiu-jitsu, only time will tell if Guillard is where he needs to be, come February 6. But time, quite possibly, is Guillard’s biggest asset as he continues to move forward in his career, regardless of how he performs at UFC 109. “All I can say is that I’m finally in a place where I dreamed of being,” says Guillard. “I’m so excited and ready to see what I can do now that I have world class training.” And with that, it seems that Melvin Guillard and all MMA fans are finally in complete agreement with each other.