Melvin Guillard speaks like a grizzled veteran. That's interesting coming from a dude who's still a few months short of 28. As he preps for his main-event fight at next weekend's Fight for the Troops card, Guillard is ready to launch himself into title contention after an up-and-down career with the UFC.
"You know, there's a lot of things in my past that haunted me and kept me from being at the top, a lot of mistakes I've made. I grew as an adult. I grew as a fighter and I grew just having a new team and an environment of people that care for what I'm doing," said Guillard, who's been training for the last year or so with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque.
"And right now my mental focus right now is I will be a UFC Champion in 2011. I went undefeated in 2010 and I called that in the beginning of 2010. Right now my focus right now is my career and I want to elevate it to the next level."
Guillard (26-8, 9-4 UFC) is gifted in most aspects of mixed martial arts, but he's struggled mentally at times inside and outside the Octagon.
"You know, I got caught up with drugs and just the negative people around me," Guillard said during the Fight for the Troops prefight teleconference (thanks to Spike for the transcript).
"And I think that’s what's big about what's going on in my life right now. I don’t have any negative people, no negative energy around me. I have a loving wife who supports me. She spends all her time in my training camps. You know, she gives up time from being in college to be here with me, you know."
Guillard says countless people have helped him over the years and he doesn't want to let them down.
"And, you know, the same with, you know, Dana and the UFC. You know, when Katrina hit, they came looking for me. Dana relocated me to Utah to live with Josh Burkman. You know, so many people has done so much for me and they believe in everything that I do and the skills that I have. I would be selfish not to take what people tell me and put it to use," said Guillard.
"So if I was out there still messing up and doing drugs and messing with the negative people, I'm letting down all the people that really believe in me including the fans. You know? There's so many fans out there now that love me so much that always loved me and I just felt I was being real selfish, you know, thinking of myself," said Guillard
Albuquerque and Team Jackson has brought needed structure to his life.
"I don’t do after parties anymore. I might go out and just hang out but I'm not doing after parties, getting drunk," Guillard said. "Like I'm really focused in right now on being a real champion and not only becoming a real champion but I want to hold that belt just as long as my teammate GSP has done it. You know, I want to have a legacy. I want to be a superstar and I want to be a legend in this sport but I'm just a fighter."
Guillard also knows he can go for broke. If he loses, he'll still have a job.
"Yes, I want to win it but the most important thing for me day to day and year to year is to make sure that I fight my butt off so that I don’t get cut because now, we can win fights and be a boring fight and you'll still lose your job," Guillard said.
"So, you know, I just stick to just going in there and give the crowd, especially my bosses -- you know what I mean? So, you know, and for fighters, it's easy for us to keep a job if some of the fighters would really pay attention. You know, we go in there and just leave it in the cage, win or lose. I've lost four fights in the UFC by submission and I've had Dana come to me and say, 'Kid, you were winning that fight. You just made a mistake.' You know what I mean?"
This is a huge opportunity. The promotion seems to be a big fan of Dunham. He lost his last fight against Sean Sherk due to a questionable decision. The UFC stood behind Dunham and threw right into a televised main event. Guillard is stepping in for the injured Kenny Florian.
If Dunham smokes Guillard, he may be in line for a title shot after the Frank Edgar-Gray Maynard-Anthony Pettis mix is sorted out. A huge finish by Guillard could change his career. It would be a nice chapter in what's been a pretty tumultuous story.