Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard has been on MMA’s radar since he participated in The Ultimate Fighter 2. After his run on the UFC’s reality show Guillard fought a who’s-who list of fighters during his almost 10 year stint with the company.
Most recently Melvin has been fighting for WSOF. Guillard took out his first opponent in the young promotion, Gesias Cavalcante, by TKO in the second round. Guillard will be facing Justin Gaethje this weekend, challenging for the WSOF Lightweight championship.
I had a chance to talk with Melvin about his long and impressive career in the sport, his thoughts on the upcoming fight, and why he refuses to be used to futher Gaethje’s popularity.
Aaron Robbins: Melvin thank you for taking some time for me today. How has the camp gone? Are you ready for this weekend?
Melvin Guillard: “Camp was good as usual. I put in a lot of hard work, but I can’t complain. I’m working with American Top Team, same team as last time, same training partners.”
AR: This must seem like just another day at work, how long have you been training and fighting?
MG: “20 years man. I took my first pro fight when I was 16. People keep asking me if I’m going to change my nickname and I say no. I was just a baby when I started, so I’m always going to be “The Young Assassin.”
AR: So you’ll be fighting for the WSOF Lightweight title versus Justin Gaethje this weekend. Give us your thoughts on Justin.
MG: “I know a lot about Justin. He was one of my sparring partners during the short time I was over at Grudge. Justin is tough and durable, but he has a tendency to telegraph his strikes. He likes to keep coming forward, and when I fight aggressive strikers like that they end up getting knocked out.”
AR: So the game plan is to keep it on the feet and strike?
MG: “I have the same game plan every fight, and that is to make it my fight. He’s a strong wrestler, but I have a wrestling and judo background. He has no choice but to stay on the feet. He might try to take me down, but what can he do to me if it goes to the mat? I have a better Jiu Jitsu game than he does, I’m a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu and I know he has no ground game at all. He’s not going to be able to ground-and-pound me, and if that’s his game plan I feel sorry for him. Nobody is ever going to pound me out like that.”
AR: Do you feel having him as a training partner in the past gives you an advantage?
MG: “It always does. Training is one thing, but when we are in the cage going 100% I’m a completely different fighter. He hasn’t really been hit by me. In training I’m only bringing about 60% of what I have to avoid injuries.”
AR: You have done well at avoiding injuries, and also have been able to continue being a contender at your weight class. You are one of the last men standing from the TUF 2 season. Any thoughts on that?
MG: “I thought I was going to be the last man standing in the UFC from that season, but I guess Rashad Evans beat me on that one. Before I was released I was more active than Rashad though. I was released from the UFC, but going to WSOF has giving me the opportunity to keep fighting and making money. I plan on going back to the UFC to get that belt after I take this one this weekend.
“I’m already known as a UFC fighter. I don’t need to be with the company to have that distinction. It’s going to be kind of weird being known as a UFC veteran walking around with the WSOF world title.”
AR: It’s well known that you want to get a chance to fight for the UFC title, at the same time you have an opportunity to fight for the title now with a company that is currently growing and getting better with every event. Do you feel fortunate to be able to grow with WSOF?
MG: “Yeah, of course. WSOF is growing just like the UFC was growing when I first started with them. Back in 2005 they were still fairly small, so I’m familiar with that kind of development in a company. I think if WSOF plays their cards right they will continue to grow and be a major player in the sport. That being said, I’m in a point in my career where I’m not going to let my name be used to further somebody else’s career. I feel that Justin is trying to do that with this fight.”
AR: You have been able to adapt and stay active during a lengthy career in MMA, what would you say you have improved upon the most in the last few years to stay relevant?
MG: “I would say that I have just improved upon myself personally. Everything changes and you have to change as well. I can use the example of a guy I used to train with, Tito Ortiz. I used to train with Tito at Punishment, and he is the exact same Tito he was eight or nine years ago when I first met him. His game hasn’t evolved and he’s technically the same fighter he was years ago. I feel as a fighter that if you don’t adapt, you’re as good as done.
“In the past my biggest criticism was that I got caught in submissions. Lately I have been beating guys who have a good submission game because I have focused on not getting caught. I’ve worked on getting out of submissions if I do get caught, but when I go into a fight I don’t think about getting caught. I think about knocking the guy out and making him fight my fight. Fighters sometimes will fight a wrestler so they train all wrestling, but when the wrestler puts his hands on them they aren’t prepared for that. I train every aspect of the game every time, that way I’m prepared no matter what my opponent brings.
“I think that my ability to adapt inside the cage is a skill that a lot of fighters don’t have. I also have knock-out power from any angle, you might not see it coming, but it is coming at some point. I’m very athletic and explosive, and I think it’s tough for my opponents to train for a guy like me. Some of these guys are good fighters, but I’m a great fighter. I know for a fact that I’m more athletic that Justin Gaethje. He is a wrestler, I wrestled as well, but I’m an athlete, I could play other sports. He is a tough mid-western wrestler and my track record shows that when I face guys like that I knock them out.”
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