(Photo courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)
Editor's note: The following Q&A contains language that may be offensive to some readers.
TUF 2 alum Melvin Guillard is a young, colorful fighter in the UFC's jampacked lightweight division. 2007 was a rough year for Guillard, who suffered two first-round losses -- both by submission -- as well as an eight-month suspension for testing positive for cocaine. Guillard talked to me by phone ten days after losing to Rich Clementi at UFC 79 on Dec. 30. What follows are the highlights of the interview.
I was at UFC 79 and I saw your fight against Rich Clementi. How did you feel going in against Clementi?
Same as I feel in every other fight. I’m always ready. No matter who it is, I’m always ready to fight. I went into that fight the same way I would have gone into any other fight.
What was the beef you had with Clementi beforehand? You were talking a lot of trash to him and he was going back and forth with you. What was the origin of that?
He’s just a snake. He’s a backstabbing bastard. He likes to get over on people. I grew up around him all my fighting career and I thought we would have been cool but he’s jealous of my success at an early age with The Ultimate Fighter and just stuff like that. He would act like he’s my friend when he sees me and then when I wasn’t around – from other friends of mine who knew him personally also – he would always cut me down. He was talking bad about me and saying I wasn’t going to make it in the UFC, and [that] I was just a young kid who was going to throw his life away. [Stuff] like that.
So, I just got tired of hearing the [talk] and I confronted him about it last February at some fights at home (New Orleans). When I saw him [and had a] fistfight or whatever and I beat his ass then, I told him after that, “Every time I see you, we’re going to fight.” And, that’s how it’s been ever since then. Of course, everybody saw that he was the victorious one [at UFC 79] but he sits up there and says, “I’ll stand toe-to-toe with Melvin,” but everybody with their own eyes saw he wasn’t ready to stand up with me. He knew my weakness was my submission game as far as fighting him because he’s a seasoned jiu-jitsu guy -- I’ll give him that. As far as me putting my hands on him, I got my respect out of him. So, I’m not even tripping, you know?
So, in a way, it sounds like you don’t even think he won the fight.
He really didn’t. He didn’t take my heart. I took his heart before he got in the ring. He was scared to fight me before he got in the ring. And, it’s like I tell everybody – and I’m going to keep saying it – when I see him again, I’m going to fight him again. When I get ready to go home for Mardi Gras, he just knows not to be seen. I went home for New Years and the places he wants to go, he wasn’t even there. He knew I was going to be there looking for him. He never showed up anywhere. As long as he keeps hiding from me, running from me, I’m winning the war every day. Eventually, we’ll get another rematch in the UFC ...
How would a rematch be different? Are you working on your submission game right now?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I’m working nothing but my jiu-jitsu. ... I got all the good guys around me ... so I’m just working the weaknesses in my game. I’m going to give myself six months to a year before my jiu-jitsu is 100 percent. I’ve wrestled my whole life and I know you can’t learn wrestling overnight, so jiu-jitsu is not something you’re going to learn overnight either. And I was already working my jiu-jitsu prior to that fight. By me being a state champ in wrestling, an average wrestler is not going to come beat me at my own game. It takes time for them to develop a game.
I wasn’t surprised by the submission. I tried to shake him as much as I could off my back. But, he was holding on like a scared little bitch. He was holding on for dear life as if if he let me go, he knew he would lose the fight. So, I don’t look back on it. It happened last year, of course. 2007 is over. I got a new year in front of me and I’ve got another year to get better at my weak game. When I do fight the next jiu-jitsu guy, I hope they have a prayer for him -- I’m not going to be so nice anymore.
After Clementi won, he did that crotch grab and that pissed you off. But, after all that trash talking, can you kind of understand why he did that?
No, I can never understand that and nobody is ever going to make me understand that. He disrespected me after the fight. He put his nuts on the back of my head. When I catch him, I’m going to kick him in his [expletive deleted] nuts. I can’t look at that and respect that. Because of the beef we have? Naw, I can’t. That’s honestly like me seeing him next time ... and I spit in his face. My dad always told me if a man spit on you or slapped you, [expletive deleted] kill him. And if he put his nuts on my head on national TV, I’m going to [expletive deleted] kill him, period. So, there’s no way I’m ever going to overlook that and be like, “Naw, it’s cool because we were having problems.” Hell no. I ain’t ever gonna let another man do that to me and get away with it.
As far as the fight, though, honestly, I was going to be the bigger man about it and give him that victory -- congratulate him on his win -- but let him know that we’re still not friends and we’re going to fight again. But, as I’m getting up, it’s like he kicked me in the back of the neck, and it pushed me back down a little bit. So, I’m like, “What the [expletive deleted]?” And, I jump up like, “No, he did not just put his nuts on my neck.” So, that’s why I went after him like I did.
I had a few opportunities where I could have hit him but I had just got off an eight month suspension from [president] Dana [White] and the UFC and the [Nevada State Athletic] Commission. I wasn’t going to be stupid and let him win again by me putting my hands on him and then they dock me some more pay. If I had done that to him, he’d still be winning. So, I just kind of let it go, let it ride just for now. Just for now.
Now, I noticed that also before your match with Joe Stevenson, you like to talk trash. Do you enjoy that part of the game? I also notice that the fans tend to boo you before your fights. Do you enjoy being the heel?
Is that what you think? Do you think I just talk trash? Do you think I’m just trash talking? What do you think?
Well, I think MMA fighters in general seem to play it pretty safe. You stand out ...
Let me ask you this. If I wasn’t who I was, if I didn’t talk trash to these fighters, would you have a story to tell? Would you have a reason to call me? No. See what I’m saying? It comes with the game.
The only people I have to respect and obey are my fans and my friends and family. As far as fighters go, I don’t have to respect or be friends with any of them. As far as I’m concerned, I might stand in front of them and face them one day. I pick and choose who I want to be cool with and that’s who I’m cool with. I don’t go befriend everybody but when it’s time to fight, yeah of course, I’m going to talk [expletive deleted]. Rich's talking [expletive deleted] now ‘cause he won this fight and that’s cool but he’s still a poor fighter. I lost the fight and people still hate him more than they hate me. He’s an arrogant bastard. And, he contradicts himself. How are you going to talk [expletive deleted] about me and say you don’t like me, and then a couple of interviews later you're going to say, “He’s a cool kid.”
And, when he talks to me on an interview, he’s like, “Hey, what’s up Melvin? What’s up buddy?” I’m not your [expletive deleted] buddy. And, he’s done that a few times, so to me, that’s fake. If you’re going to not like somebody and create mischief and create that problem, then you keep it that way. You don’t keep going back and forth.
I got booed before the fight, I got booed after the fight, but I’m still one of the crowd favorites. They booed him even more for him talking stupid, saying “Yeah, I told him I’d stand up with him.” And everybody that was there saw that when he stood up with me, I almost knocked him out. If I’m not the person I am, then you all wouldn’t have a job.
Yeah, I like to talk [expletive deleted] but I also back it up. I haven’t gotten my ass beat. I haven’t been in a fight yet where somebody has outclassed me or just beat me down. Every fight I’ve been in, the ones I’ve lost have been from submission or a close judges’ decision. When you really look at my record and all the losses that I have, I’ve lost to jiu-jitsu guys. Nobody is ever going to stand in front of me and beat my ass. My mom did that all my life so those days are over with. If I’m going to lose a fight because of somebody submitting me, I’ll take that any day over somebody beating my ass.
Back to the original question, is this the real Melvin Guillard? You’re not putting on a show? This is the real you?
Yeah, it’s me, man. When I have to fight, bro, it’s a business. Me and Joe [Stevenson] are cool. That was some made-up beef to get a little tension going. With Rich, man, none of that is fake. People were like, “After the fight, you’re not going to be cool.” Hell no, I’m not going to be cool! They were asking, “Are you all going to let it go? Is that the end of it?” No, it’s not the end of it. Win or lose. If I’d have won that fight, I still would beat his ass every time I see him. That’s just how I feel about him on a personal level.
From the outside it would seem like 2007 was a rough year for you, with the two losses and the suspension for cocaine. How would you describe it since you lived it?
Well, it was a learning experience. I did a lot of growing up. I realized what was important. I had my fun. I happened to be the fighter that got caught. Like I said before, there are a ton of us that go out and party and have fun and do all those crazy things. I just happened to be the one to get caught. So, it was my bed -- I had to lay in it.
2007 was a rough year. I had a rough three years. 2005 was Katrina. 2006 was my dad passing away. 2007 was the suspension. I had my three years bad luck. It’s behind me now. So, now I look forward to having a great 2008 and getting back on the winning track.
Speaking of 2008, since it looks like you have a positive outlook on the year, what do you have in store for this year?
I’m going to take a few fights outside the UFC to get back some of my wins. Hopefully, it’s not any all-around chumps. I’m not going to take any fights at 155 [pounds] outside the UFC. I want to fight at 170 [pounds] -- a weight class above mine outside the UFC. I’m probably scheduled to fight again in the UFC late March, early April if they bless me with that.
Other than that, I’ll take a lot of side hustles, make some money this year. Being suspended for eight months really hurt my pocket. You can put in the article [that] anybody [who] wants to donate to the Melvin Negro Fund, they can donate to that too because right now my pockets [are] hurting. Being suspended for eight months ... I almost had to go work a regular job to survive. I don’t want to have that feeling again.
So, the UFC has agreed to let you fight some outside fights?
Yeah, they did. But, I gotta be careful who I fight for and who I fight. It’s not one of those things where I can just go fight any show or fight anybody. I gotta be real careful how I pick the fights. It’s like taking a gamble because if [I] do that, I have to win. I have to win these fights. If I gotta fight two weight classes up -- to fight 185- [pounders] -- I’ll do that to protect what I have in the UFC. I’ll fight a 185-pound guy if I have to. It’s not one of those things where I can just go jump and say, “Here, I’m going to take this fight or that fight like I used to.” If something goes wrong -- God forbid something goes wrong -- and the UFC’s not happy, they can ... put me on a break for a long time from the UFC and I can’t live with that.
So, the deal you have with the UFC is that you cannot fight lightweight outside the UFC?
Well, they never technically said that. They never said I couldn’t fight lightweight. But, that’s a decision I made on a personal level. I don’t even want to mess with my lightweight status -- whether it’s a win, whether it’s a loss, whether it’s a draw. I don’t even want to play with that outside the UFC. I would rather keep my 155- [pound] rankings only in the UFC. So, me going out and fighting heavier guys in different weight classes, I figure they’ll be a lot more lenient on me, to say, “OK, that’s no problem.”
Plus, I don’t want to cut 25 pounds every time I have to fight. That’s not that fun. Fighting in the UFC is worth it. But, anything outside of that, I don’t feel like it’s worth it. I’d rather just fight at the weight I walk around at. So, that was kind of a personal decision.
Have you started talking to other promotions? Would they let you fight for EliteXC or IFL?
No, and that’s another thing. I cannot fight for any competition organizations like IFL or EliteXC. I won’t do it anyway because all those other guys, they’ll try to put me on a contract. Plus, they’re all televised. The only way people will see me televised in a fight on TV, it has to be in the UFC.
So, we’re talking local promotions?
Right, I’m talking about local, backyard [expletive deleted], something like that. That’s how I started out fighting. I don’t mind a couple of backyard fights. You got anything lined up where you are at? We can do it in the backyard.
[Laughing] Unfortunately, I live in a state where they don’t have MMA sanctioned.
Yeah, Maryland ... We have it in Washington D.C. though, so if you want to come out to D.C. ...
I’m going to jump around a little bit, man. I’m just trying to stay loyal to the UFC because that’s my home. To me, there’s no other organization bigger than that. So, if you ain’t fighting in the UFC, then your life as a fighter has got be very [expletive deleted] boring. You ain’t going to get that kind of publicity or that kind of fame. And, they got so many guys now trying to get to that level -- they’re trying to get to the big show -- it would be naive and stupid of me to take it for granted. It’d be like, “I fight in the UFC already, so I’m just going to fight over here, fight there” – I don’t think like that. I’m blessed to be in the UFC at an early age so I’m just going to leave it like that.
How many fights do you have left on your current UFC contract?
Right now, I have about two years left on my deal. I don’t have, like, so many fights, you know what I mean? They do kind of guarantee us somewhere [between] three to four fights a year. They kind of space it out on the average because the UFC has so many shows, the healthier you are the more chances you get to fight. But, I think the way they stretch it out, you’re lucky if you get four. You’re real lucky if you get four fights [a year].
Are you back in the gym training already?
Would you say you’re mostly working on your jiu-jitsu and your ground game right now?
Yeah, I’ve been focusing a lot more, even going back to my wrestling. Because I was getting away from my wrestling too. I started standing up so much. I got careless with guys taking me down. I wasn’t going for no takedowns. I’m really trying to work my wrestling game and my jiu-jitsu. I already know I can box and kickbox. That’s not something everybody needs to try and figure out. I need to sit down and reassess my situation with my ground game and actually focus a lot more on it. It’s kind of what I’ve been doing -- focusing on my weak spot, my hole in my game.
Do you know who your next UFC opponent will be?
No, not as of right now, I don’t know. I’ll probably know within another few weeks, a month or so, something like that.
Do you have a preference?
Well, I wanted to fight Roger Huerta, but they said he’s on vacation right now. So, that fight’s up in the air. Other than that, man, I don’t care. As long as they put me back in. I’d prefer to fight a few strikers for a while until I can get my jiu-jitsu game up. Because, my last two fights, they gave me mat rats -- they just wanted to hug me. I get enough hugs at home. I want to fight some people that are ready to stand up and trade punches and kind of put me to the test.
Do you have input with the UFC in terms of what kind of fighters you want to fight or who you fight?
Yeah, they’ll call and they’ll ask us [if] we want to fight this guy, that guy. They’ll call my agent, he’ll call me, and then I’ll sit down with my coaches and we really just think about if it’s a good fight for me. So, yeah we do have say [into] who we fight.
The lightweight division in the UFC is one of the toughest divisions in the world. Where do you see yourself?
It used to be the 170- [pound] class was the toughest. Now, with all the guys like Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, [Tyson] Griffin, the 155- [pound] class is probably the top class and the hardest weight division in the UFC right now. At first it wasn’t. At first, it was almost like, man, the 170- [pound] class was still strong. But, the only guys you see winning the 170- [pound class] are Matt Hughes and [Georges] St. Pierre. They keep trading the belt back and forth. I don’t see nobody that’s going to beat them.
But, at the 155- [pound] weight class, you got Joe fighting BJ Penn next for the title. I really think Joe can beat him and everybody’s telling me he can’t. But, dude, Joe has a good well-rounded game and his stand-up is great now. I got to visit with Joe while I was getting ready for my fight. ... He’s looking good. All around. His whole game is looking good.
And, I sit back and I thought about it and that’s what I need. I got me a few new trainers now and I need to create me a training area around me where I don’t do nothing but just train ... and not worry about everything else. I got caught up worrying about everything surrounding these last three years. I was worried about everyone and everything around me instead of worrying about myself, and what’s my main objective. And, I think that’s why I lost sight and that’s why I fell short these last two fights.
Now, I finally got my mind ready and right. I’m focused on what’s important to me. Without fighting, I don’t know what I’d be doing ... I’d rob a bank or some [expletive deleted]. I’d probably do something that desperate because there’s nothing else I want to do. So, as long as I stay focused on what’s important, man, I think I’ll hold up pretty good.
Whoever they give me the next fight, I’m hoping and praying it’s a striker ... hopefully fight a couple of strikers. Give the crowd what they came to see me do best. The people come to see me stand up and trade punches ‘til I knock someone out. When I’m fighting and struggling to get guys off my back, to try to keep me off the ground, it takes away from what I’m really good at -- for the fans. With that, I’m hoping I get a decent fight next time around.