Billington: Guillard’s final shot at greatness

The UFC has released lightweight star Melvin Guillard after 22 appearances with the promotion. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
July 19, 2013, 5:21 PM

Metairie, La., Nov. 16, 2002, a brash young fighter named Melvin Guillard stepped into battle for the first time in his professional mixed martial arts career. His opponent? His cousin.

Guillard who’s noted for his explosive knockout power decided to pull the punches against family and rode out a dominant decision. This was just the first chapter of the turbulent, at times bizarre, career of “The Young Assassin.”

Guillard built a steady following through his numerous knockouts on the regional scene, but didn’t come to real prominence until he appeared in the second season of The Ultimate Fighter. Despite being a focal point amongst fans, his performance on the show left a lot to be desired as he was lost a decision to Josh Burkman. Although his performance was a disappointment, fans were given their first taste of the dynamic and explosive New Orleans native.

Post TUF, Guillard had a successful period in the UFC, amassing a 3-1 record within the promotion including three finishes, but in 2006 things took a turn for the worse when Melvin’s father, a massive influence on his career, passed away at the age of 44 from cirrhosis of the liver. This had a profound effect on the then-23-year-old fighter and his life began to spiral out of control.

Guillard developed a drug habit in 2006 after the death of his father; Melvin took a wrong turn in his life plan and switched from swinging punches to snorting cocaine and partying. Leading up to his main event fight with TUF 2 winner Joe Stevenson, fans began to see a new side to Guillard. He started to become a trash talker and was unsilenceable.

When Stevenson and Guillard finally met in the Octagon in April 2007 it was a short night of action. Stevenson, a gifted grappler, made light work of Guillard and choked him out within a minute.

After his fight with Stevenson, Guillard broke down and uncharacteristically accused his adversary of taking Human Growth Hormone, an illegal, performance-enhancing drug. The ironic thing was that when the drug test results came in, he was the one who failed. Guillard tested positive for cocaine and faced an eight-month ban.

In Guillard’s early days he always looked up to fellow Louisiana fighter Rich Clementi, but things took a turn for the worse when the pair began emailing each other “talking trash.”

At a local show, Guillard allegedly sucker punched Clementi. Soon after, a street fight ensued the fight was broken up. Clementi contacted UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and told him he wanted Guillard next. He obliged.

On Dec. 29, 2007, the pair met and “The Young Assassin” suffered a similar fate to his bout with Stevenson. His over eagerness worked to his detriment and his enemy, Clementi, choked him out.

After his fight with Clementi, Melvin’s career took a turn for the better.

After a tumultuous few years, he decided to rededicate himself to his career, winning a few fights before making the best decision of his fighting career. In 2009, he was persuaded to join Greg Jackson’s MMA team by Stevenson, now his friend. In an interview with jacksons.tv, he explained the move:

“I called up Joe and he said that he was training at Jackson’s now. Ironically, when I fought (Nate) Diaz, coach Jackson and Donald Cerrone were in the locker room. I just walked up to coach Greg and asked him if he would mind if I could visit his gym and come train for a little bit.

“A lot of other coaches had already told me no. I was expecting a letdown but he was like, “Yea, we would love to have you come up train, try it out and see if you like it. When I came up here in January I just fell in love with this place and I don’t want to leave.”

What followed was amazing. Melvin’s God-given talent was utilized to its fullest with Jackson. He finally began to fulfill his potential.
He notched off a five-fight win streak and was amidst title contention before his over confidence became his downfall against Joe Lauzon at UFC 136. After showboating he was dropped and tapped out within a minute. After that fight, Melvin made his biggest mistake to date and left Jackson to join The Blackzilian team and moved to Florida.

After switching Albuquerque for Florida, Guillard’s career began to collapse. His hot streak with Jackson’s was switched to a 1-3 spell with The Blackzilians, which leads us to now.

Guillard is likely one loss away from being cut from the UFC. Without realizing the obvious potential he has, on Saturday night he faces TUF 6 winner Mac Danzig. It’s pretty clear to see that with a loss he will be handed his walking papers.

At age 30, Guillard is in a precarious position in his career. His story parallels those of Sugar Ray Robinson and Mike Tyson, both naturally gifted athletes with inner demons, but unlike Robinson or Tyson, Melvin has never been able to keep himself on an even keel long enough to live up to his potential, although he has taken a step in the right direction, leaving the Blackzilians to team up with Trevor Whitman at Denver’s Grudge Training Center.

It is my belief that Guillard has the skills to beat anyone in the UFC’s 155-pound division, but his weakness has always been the mental side of the game. He will be hoping his time spent with new coach Whitman will help get his head together.

UFC president Dana White put it best when describing Guillard in an interview in 2007 with the Shreveport Times:

“Since Day 1, Melvin has had the talent. He’s been a cross between a fighter and the guy who’s a phony and just wants to be on TV. Melvin wants all the fame and status immediately. This kid gets bounced off the show and he was out partying like a rock star, like the thing was already on television — acting like he was Mike Tyson or something. Melvin gets caught up in both.

“He’s not afraid to fight anybody. He has all the skill and talent.”

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