Melvin Guillard Takes First Step Toward Lightweight Title at UFC 114
Next to his father dying, the 10th of May 2007 was the absolute worst moment of Melvin Guillard’s young life. It was also the day of an awakening. A promising UFC lightweight prospect and alum of The Ultimate Fighter Season 2, Guillard was leveled with an eight-month suspension and fined $2,100 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after testing positive for cocaine following a loss to cast mate and Joe Stevenson.
The news was a major embarrassment both Guillard and MMA; it was the first time a mixed martial artist was suspended for cocaine usage by the NSAC. It also threatened to tag Guillard with the black sheep label. Guillard’s mother, a minister, expected the best from her children, more so out of Melvin due to his gifted athletic talents. Guillard also tended to be a bad seed on the outside, curiosity getting the best of him to where upon returning home he’d receive a foot down his throat.
“I thank my mom every single day, as a man, that she was hard on me,” Guillard said. “She told me out of all of my brothers, I had a special gift. To hear that from my mom, that means the world to me. It’s not about just me and being a fighter. It’s about me being a person and being a friend to my mother and showing my mother and my grandparents I can push through anything and overcome. I wake up and think what could I do different.”
After confronting his mother with the news, Guillard was scared straight. Never again was he caught with drugs in his system. He dealt with the problem with dignity and today nobody talks about it, though Guillard does not run away from what helped re-invent him as a person.
“That’s just being a human being,” Guillard said. “Everybody’s got their ups and downs. Right now, everything is beautiful. I’m enjoying training. It’s making it fun for me again. For a while, I was getting bored with it because I wasn’t learning new things.”
He’s having fun and looking pretty good. Guillard is 4-2 since the suspension, but the record is cosmetic. Each fight he has grown and matured, and joining Jackson’s Submission Fighting has given him a new lease on his career. Guillard was a promising lightweight contender, but inferior submission defense and bad decision making prevented him from joining the upper echelon of fighters in his division.
Worst off, if you had him licked mentally, Guillard would crumble. When he first met with striking coach Mike Winklejohn he revealed his abhorrence for thinking, game-planning or watching old fights and preferred to just let it unfold.
“It has its small advantages but it’s definitely a big disadvantage because our camp is about strategy and being in the right place at the right time,” Winklejohn said. “That’s the biggest difference in Melvin since he’s been around us.”
If you saw him tangle with Ronnys Torres in February, it was obvious “The Young Assassin” is recalibrated. Displaying patience and a will to win, Guillard grinded out a unanimous decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) and enters a favorable yet dangerous UFC 114 matchup with Waylon Lowe. As first reported by Heavy.com, Thiago Tavares, Guillard’s original opponent, was forced to withdraw with an elbow injury and was replaced by the UFC newcomer. Lowe (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) comes in riding a six-fight winning streak and is capable wrestler who came up short in a bid to make the cast of TUF Season 9.
“You can’t underestimate these up-and-comers because sometimes they shock the world,” Winklejohn said.
Guillard plans on not letting it get that far. His goal is to buff his highlight reel with more knockouts (56.52 percent of his wins have come via KO or TKO). His intention is to fly under the radar, slip past the top lightweights and earn a shot at the title within two years.
“Being a world champion completes my legacy,” Guillard said. “Like I was saying to [my teammates], if I win a championship one time and don’t ever win it again, I can always say I won it that one time. There are a lot of guys that come into the sport that don’t see a championship or never get a shot at it. I want those top-five contenders, [Kenny] Florian, Gray [Maynard], any one of those guys who I can beat, and then it’ll put me in their spot.”
Thinking big itself is a major example of how far Guillard has climbed out of the pit of despair. His personal demons consumed him to where instead of enjoying a fighter’s life, he was throwing it away, questioning himself and his family on whether it was worth it anymore. Once the thought of becoming a 9-to-5er took over, it was the kick in the ass that Melvin needed to make a final push at realizing his potential.
“The last thing on earth I ever want to do is have to punch a clock,” Guillard said. “I love my free time. I get to enjoy my free time. Why throw it away? There are a lot of guys who are dying to be in my shoes right now, to appear on The Ultimate Fighter and fall short.
“I feel unstoppable right now.”