Fighting Donald Cerrone in the co-main event of UFC 150 is an “opportunity of a lifetime” for Melvin Guillard.
Guillard’s wildly entertaining MMA career is a storied one. He’s had 40 professional fights, with 18 inside the Octagon and seven wins by KO or TKO in the UFC. But more importantly, he’s been a fighter that’s knocked on the door of a title shot for years and never received one due to untimely shortcomings. Just when Guillard would go on an impressive winning streak, he would get submitted by another lightweight contender. For years, Guillard was thought to be the next big thing at lightweight by his peers, but that day simply never came.
But after defeating Fabricio Camoes at UFC 148 by decision, Guillard has been blessed with another opportunity to make a run at the title in the form of a bout with his former training partner, Cerrone. A bout that’s not only against a top-10 lightweight, but it’s one against a man he knows well.
“He’s one of my best friends. Definitely, we were close, so it’s like going into the ring to fight one of your brothers,” Guillard told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview.
The feeling between Guillard and Cerrone is mutual. Cerrone said on the UFC 150 conference call that he wasn’t training with his current head coach and Guillard’s former head coach, Greg Jackson, for this upcoming bout out of respect for Guillard. Guillard was taken by surprise when he learned of it.
“I respect that. I didn’t expect, but you learn something new about people every day, like the integrity that he has to respect our friendship enough to not train with Greg,” Guillard said. “But it wouldn’t have hurt me either way. I kind of wish he would’ve trained with Coach Greg because that’s his coach.”
As for Guillard’s current gym, the Blackzilians, well, it’s better than ever now that head coach Mike Van Arsdale has left, or at least that’s what Guillard thinks. Guillard said that there’s no tension in the gym and everyone’s getting along, which is a result of them getting rid of the “bad seed.”
“He talked too much about himself,” Guillard said. “He’s a good coach, but he’s not as great as he thought he was. He speaks so much about himself to where it’s like a pretty chick who has a nasty attitude.”
Guillard said he and Van Arsdale “butted heads” all the time. So with Van Arsdale’s departure, Guillard said the gym is way better off, and furthermore, it’s another piece of the puzzle coming into place for Guillard’s journey back up the ladder.
But can the 29-year-old make another run toward a coveted title shot? He, like most fighters going into a bout, has declared that he’s in the best shape of his life and that he’s ready to reach his full potential. And judging by the tone in his voice, he’s spewing confidence. And for good reason, following his last bout with Camoes.
Though Guillard has had trouble with being submitted in the past, Guillard showed a glimpse of improvement in his submission defense. Camoes had Guillard in his world on the mat, and Guillard was able to escape and make his way back to his feet. When asked if the move gave him confidence, Guillard gave an enthusiastic “hell yeah!”
But the improvements don’t stop at the submission game for Guillard. Oh no, Guillard swears that his kickboxing is better than it was when training with Cerrone at Jackson’s MMA. Furthermore, he said Cerrone’s style plays right into his style. And though Cerrone has an excellent submission game, most likely he’ll stand and trade strikes with Guillard this Saturday night.
“It’s going to be an old school-yard brawl. Donald’s going to bring it and I’m going to bring it. I’m hoping to knock him out in the second or third round. If it comes in the first, I’m going to be ecstatic,” Guillard said.
So will Guillard finally reach his potential and beat one of the greatest lightweights the UFC has to offer? It remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain—a fight between Cerrone and Guillard has “Fight of the Night” written all over it.
Top Photo: Melvin Guillard (James Law/Heavy MMA)