UFC 148 may be the biggest card of the summer, and knock on wood, it hasn't been completely turned upside down due to injuries, despite the fact that injury riddled cards are quickly becoming the standard. On a card filled with compelling match-ups, one of the standouts is Melvin Guillard vs. Fabricio Camoes. Guillard has had a rough patch in his last two bouts, but considers them effective learning tools in his continuing evolution as a fighter. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Melvin discusses his transition from being a young knucklead (his own words) to a mature, yet still ambitious competitor.
*Note: Interviewer is either my co-host, Evan Shoman of TapouT Radio, or myself. When I don't conduct these interviews by myself, I just put "Interviewer" to eliminate having to bounce back and forth between three different names.
Interviewer: You're fighting on the 4th of July weekend card again. Would you say this is becoming a tradition for you?
Melvin Guillard: Oh yes. This is my fifth year fighting on or around the fourth of July, and I've got a trend going where I haven't lost any of those fights, so I'm excited to go in and compete. Right now I just want to get back on the winning track to get back on top of that ladder.
Interviewer: Can you give a comparison of Jackson's MMA and the Blackzilian camps?
Melving Guillard: Both camps are great. Both sets of coaches are great. I miss Coach Greg and Coach Wink every day, though. Those guys were not only just coaches in the gym, they were like life coaches to me, you know, but I've been blessed with my judo coach, Coach Tripp. He's always in my corner, and he's never going to leave, no matter how many gyms I switch to. He's the one coach I'll always have in my corner. As long as I have him, everything else works itself out.
At the end of the day, it's about having great teammates that are going to beat me up when I go into that training room, and I get a lot of that here with the Blackzilians. We have a lot of teammates from Amsterdam, and those Dutch kickboxers are very good strikers. They elevate my striking game to the next level.
I'm now working with a lot of the Brazilian black belts here. I'm only a blue belt, but I'm already tapping purple belts in class. I'm actually focusing my energy around my weakness, and that's my submission game. I just want to elevate my career to the next level. I'm 29 years old, and I'm getting to that point where I want to make a run for this, and to do that, I have to work on my weaknesses.
The biggest problem I had at Jackson's is that guys started not wanting to spar with me because it's like go hard or go home. Guys like Donald Cerrone and Leonard Garcia would always spar with me, but some of the other guys started shying away, and if I had to compare, the guys here, everybody's hungry.
A lot of the Brazilian guys on my team come from a country where they've got to fight for everything they want. I relate to that because I grew up in New Orleans and that's kind of how my lifestyle was growing up, as well. When you come from cities that are less fortunate, you learn to fight for things. These guys, they don't quit. I think the guys here are a little hungrier and more determined. Every training session is hard. I just got out of the ring from doing 11 rounds at five minutes a piece. It's ridiculous, but it works. I have coaches that make me work, and they give me that one on one time that I need.
Interviewer: Do you ever spar with Tyrone Spong?
Melvin Guillard: [laughs] He's the one guy I don't mess with. I sparred with him a couple of times, but he hits so hard, even when he's not trying to. It's ridiculous. He's a great coach, and I've learned a lot from him. We have two guys that came in that trained with Tyrone that are actually my size, but the crazy part is, they hit just as hard as Tyrone, but they're my size.
Interviewer: You've completely transformed yourself mentally. It seems that you've lost the hothead tendencies, and really settled into the role of being a great representative of both your camp and the UFC. What got you to this point?
Melvin Guillard: As the sport has grown, a lot of us have grown with it. You have to understand that there's consequences for everything. I want to be as professional as possible and carry myself as a man of integrity now. I spent so many years being a childish kid and doing childish things. Now I have a chance in life to do things right, and honestly, it feels great. It feels good to do things right and not be a knucklehead.
I got a little sidetracked trying to chase the title. My coach reminded me, let it come to me, it'll come, so right now, I'm just focusing on winning. My championship fights are getting those wins. All I care about right now is getting W's. I'm not focusing on the belt so much anymore. I just want to win good fights.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on the lightweight division right now, and the current situation with constant rematches clogging up all the title runs for the rest of the top tier fighters?
Melvin Guillard: I didn't think Frankie Edgar deserved a rematch. I thought he lost at least four of the five rounds. Honestly, I don't think I gave him one round, but that's just the nature of the business, I guess. It's just how the cards are dealt sometimes. I think it's a little ridiculous having so many rematches, even in other weight classes. There's way too many times that we see the same guys always fighting for the titles. There's too many great fighters to be allowing so many rematches.
Right now, it's about me focusing on getting wins, so that when that call comes, I'm ready. I don't want to be a choke artist like some fighters. I believe that some guys get awarded all these title matches, and then they get in there and they choke. I don't want to be that guy.
I'm not one to compare organizations, but Bellator has that bracketed tournament setup, so when those guys win, they're true champions. I've been pushing for a UFC tournament for awhile. Right now, our weight class is over stacked with guys. It's either that, or push some of us over to Strikeforce, but who gets credibility in Strikeforce? Nobody. Nobody's really talking about the Strikeforce LW champion the way they talk about the UFC LW champion. Unfortunately, Strikeforce doesn't get the same respect as the UFC. Right now our division is over crowded, but it's over crowded with great talent. Nobody is an easy fight.
Interviewer: What do you think of the direction The Ultimate Fighter has taken?
Melvin Guillard: I watch the show sometimes, and some of these guys are freaking clowns. I can't really rag on them too hard, because I was a little dumb idiot clown when I was on Season 2. Look where that got me. I didn't last long. I was the first person eliminated. I think TUF should be more about guys fighting. I think Dana should handpick everybody. They shouldn't let the network pick anybody.
This is a fighting organization and some guys are trying to take the easy road. Some guys are complaining about fights or don't want to fight certain guys. You shouldn't have a want. If the boss says you're gonna fight a certain guy, then you're gonna fight that guy. That's the way it should be. You shouldn't be selective about who you want to fight. Me, I want to fight everybody in my division, because that's the only way you're going to know if you're the best. Some I've lost, some I've won. Some of those losses I want back. I really want these last two losses back, but it will come when it comes.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on fighting teammates?
Melvin Guillard: I'm not really big on fighting teammates because when you train with a guy every day, it makes it hard to fight him, but say there was a tournament, and those teammates were on opposite sides of the bracket, and they met up in the finals, that's a different story. I wouldn't turn down a title shot. What am I gonna tell my kids when I have them? 'Your dad would've been a world champion, but i backed down and decided to let my teammate be the world champion instead.' No. It don't work like that.
Put everybody on teams and let's roll it like that. There's a lot of ways that this can be worked out, but I'm only one voice. At this point, you need the voice of the people. You need the voice of the fans. The fans are the ones that are buying tickets, and buying PPVs and coming to the expos. Those are the people that need to be heard.
Interviewer: Do you ever seriously put the suggestion of a tournament on the table to Dana, or has it just been mentioned in casual conversation?
Melvin Guillard: I speak to him all the time. I've called him, I've texted him and told him, 'Hey man, what about a 16 man tournament?' I get a certain response, but it's cool. Whatever happens, happens.
Interviewer: What kind of response have you gotten from Dana about your tournament suggestions?
Melvin Guillard: I can't discuss what we talked about. Certain things that we talk about are private. I know they've got things that they're working on, but like I said, I'm just one voice. Dana does listen to us, though. He's not ignoring us. Things come with time. Right now, everybody's just got to chill and see what happens.
Interviewer: I've heard that Fridays hold a special significance at the Blackzilian camp. Talk about "Meat Day".
Melvin Guillard: Meat Day is hard sparring, but this close to a fight, I don't participate in Meat Day. You're in there getting kicked around, and getting knots all over you. It's not for everybody, but after time, you start to adapt. It's definitely very interesting.