"I’m known for being very aggressive, coming out swinging, and putting guys away, and I want to keep that edge." - Melvin Guillard
If you thought you saw UFC lightweight Melvin Guillard out on the links in South Florida but weren’t sure if that was “The Young Assassin” taking aim, your eyes weren’t playing tricks on you. So dare we say that the New Orleans native is becoming a man of leisure in his “old” age?
“I think playing golf and being part of a cigar club has helped me grow in a lot of areas,” said the 29-year old, who gets back to the day job on July 7 in a UFC 148 bout against Fabricio Camoes. “I’m around a lot of older guys that give me a lot of wisdom, and I meet new people from different areas of the world and different backgrounds every time I’m on the golf course, and when all those guys come together, the one thing they all have in common is that they give me good reason for being a genuine person. They all tell me how mature I am as a young guy and that’s a good feeling. So it’s definitely helped me in those areas, and my golf game is helping me in my fight game as well because it teaches me to be mentally patient, even when things get bad. In golf, you can get a little frustrated sometimes, and your game can be good one day and be bad the next, and I relate that to fighting, even when I’m in the gym. You have your good days and your bad days, but I try to have more good days than bad.”
In the fight game, Guillard is coming off two bad days in a row, submission losses to Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon that snapped a five fight winning streak and put his title hopes on ice for the moment. It isn’t the first time he’s had to battle back from adversity, both in and out of the Octagon, and as he approaches the latest must win of his nearly decade long mixed martial arts career, he’s confident, but still keeping that thought in the back of his head that if he doesn’t win, he will be on the outs when it comes to the UFC.
“It’s one of those things where I fight at my best when my back’s against the wall, and going into this fight, I always give myself that mental edge as if maybe I got a phone call from (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva and it’s a must-win fight for Melvin,” he said. “I always put myself in that mindset and in that position because my whole goal, other than being a UFC world champion, is to be in the UFC until I retire. I don’t see myself fighting anywhere else but the UFC, so I always want to perform at my best. Right now I’m going into this fight very confident, knowing that I’m gonna take this guy out.”
He may be exaggerating about getting his walking papers with a loss, but he’s not when it comes to fighting his best when cornered. Back to back defeats against Joe Stevenson and Rich Clementi were devastating setbacks, but in response he kicked off a three fight winning streak. A 2009 submission defeat against Nate Diaz in a fight he was winning prompted him to reel off five straight, and despite losing the last two by tap out, he’s not intimidated by facing a decorated jiu-jitsu black belt in Camoes, having defeated similarly respected groundfighters like Ronys Torres and Gleison Tibau before. He doesn’t expect next week’s fight to match those latter two bouts though.
“I don’t want this fight to turn into a boring fight because I’m focusing so much on the defensive end and trying not to get submitted,” he said. “I still want to be active and put up a good fight and I want make sure that if it does go to a decision, I win every round.”
Yet the most important aspect of the fight for Guillard is proving that he can mix his ferocious striking attack with a more measured assault when necessary. That’s been his Achilles Heel in the past, with his over aggressiveness costing him many times and his decision to show more patience leading him to defeat against Miller earlier this year. It’s a balance that’s been difficult to find, but he hasn’t stopped working to achieve it.
“I think in the Lauzon fight I was impatient, and in the Jim Miller fight I feel like I was a little too patient,” he said. “So now that I got through those two fights and I came up short, what I do now is tell myself that I’ve got to put myself in the middle and meet myself halfway. I’ve never had trouble with pulling the trigger with a kill shot – never. Coach Greg (Jackson) and them taught me patience and I brought that with me here to South Florida (with the Blackzilians) and I’m the same way, but I also have to remember what got me to where I’m at and why I’ve been so successful. Why I’ve been so successful is because of my killer instinct – knowing when guys are hurt and how to put them out. I have to measure that patience with that aggression and just put it together, and that’s what I’m bringing to the table July 7th when I fight Fabricio.”
And that’s where golf has come in for Guillard. It’s not just a way to wind down, but a way to find his middle.
“It’s all about that mental part,” he said. “When you hit a bad shot, you don’t let that affect you. I’ve played with some guys where they’ll hit one bad shot and then their whole game will go out the window, their whole 18 is gone. I’ll hit a bad shot and then I could have a 60 foot chip to get on the green, and the first thing I’ll say when I walk up to the ball is, ‘hey guys, I’m about to knock this in for my birdie.’ (Laughs) And guys laugh, they’re like ‘this kid is crazy, he’s so confident.’ But I’m like hey, I’m gonna knock it in, and even if I don’t, I get it damn close enough to where I can go up and putt it. I think that’s the way you have to be in fighting. When I’m in that ring, the first thing I’m thinking of is if I end up in a bad position now, I have to work out of that bad position and put myself back in the position where I have a chance at winning. And that’s where I relate golf to fighting.”
But unless you get hit accidentally by a stray club or ball, there is nothing in golf that compares to what goes on in the Octagon on fight night, and few deliver that visceral thrill of speed and power like Guillard, who has won seven of his 10 UFC fights by knockout. To tone that down would be taking away what makes “The Young Assassin” special, and he knows it. So if you expect him to go back to his underrated wrestling or start showing off a jiu-jitsu game, that’s not happening. He just wants to hone his fury and play it smart.
“The big key for me is not losing that mental edge I’ve always had over people,” said Guillard. “I’m known for being very aggressive, coming out swinging, and putting guys away, and I want to keep that edge. It’s not only my style and my game, but I’m always able to send a message to everybody in my weight class. And I think in the recent past, a lot of guys have turned down fights against me because I’ve been one of those guys that’s hard to train for, and I love having that over people in my weight class. I always want to have that aggressive edge and go out and make a statement. That’s the way I fight and not only that, I want to give the fans the best show ever.”
He also wants to please one fan in particular, his wife Tache, who has weathered the storm with her husband and wants to see him succeed.
“Over the past few years, the one person that matters to me the most and means the world to me is my wife,” said Guillard of his bride. “She’s there with me through every workout and weight cut, and she’s been my biggest supporter. That’s all the motivation I need. The one thing I don’t want to do is see her have to cry after a loss. She’s the first face I’ve seen leaving the cage in my last two fights, and I’ve seen her in tears. That’s one of the most hurtful things that I can see – watching her cry because of my failures. So I definitely want to go in there and put this guy away so that I can put that smile on her face and she can look at me and tell me ‘you did it.’ That’s all the reward that I need.”
That and a win that will put him back in the race for a shot at the lightweight belt he covets. So apparently Melvin will be sticking around for a while.
“I may shock the world and end up with a PGA card,” he laughs. “The one thing about golf is, I watch tournaments every weekend and pro golfers don’t retire until their late 50’s and they can play on senior tours and stuff like that. So it’s definitely a sport that after fighting I can possibly make some good money in if I just stay focused on it. But right now, fighting’s my first love, it’s what I want to do and it’s my passion.”