Melvin Guillard is glad that he finally gets to fight one of his friends. It’s more fun, he claims. It’s "a lot less stressful" fighting someone you know and like and respect. Fighting is such an intimate act, why wouldn’t he rather do it with a friend instead of some stranger off the street?
"When, you know the guy you can just go out expecting it to be a fun fight," Guillard told MMA Fighting this week. "There’s no animosity and no stress. We’re just going to get paid and have a lot of fun doing it, then be friends after."
He’s not kidding about being friends after the fight, either. Guillard and Donald Cerrone are already planning to have a joint after-party following their lightweight bout at UFC 150 in Denver this weekend. According to Guillard, they’ve been planning the party "since we signed the contract to fight each other."
It’s a little presumptuous, especially since Guillard has spent the last several weeks preparing to do things to Cerrone that might easily land him in the hospital on Saturday night, but maybe that’s the duality of mind you have to have to do what Guillard and Cerrone do for a living. They are friends and former teammates, and now they’re going to try and hurt each other for our entertainment. Is that so wrong?
In another line of work, maybe. But this is MMA. Pain is their business. Back when they were both training at Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, they used to beat one another up for free in sparring. But, Guillard is quick to point out, you can’t compare sparring to fighting, since it’s little more than a tool to prepare for a fight rather than a fight in itself.
"Neither one of us has ever hit each other with a hundred percent of our power," he said. "When you’re sparring, you try not to hurt each other."
On paper, Guillard-Cerrone seems like a certain type of fight. It seems like the kind where both men will meet in the center of the cage and get busy trying to find out how well the other guy’s blood clots. It does not seem like the kind of fight that will be decided by takedowns or the ever vague "Octagon control."
But there’s a danger in thinking you know what to expect. Especially when you can easily trick yourself into thinking you know exactly who your opponent is and what he’ll do, there’s a chance that you might assume too much and plan your way right out of a victory. That’s what Guillard is trying to avoid, he said. That’s why he’s not promising a slugfest, even if everyone is expecting one.
"It’s like getting married to a woman and you go to the altar and get cold feet," he said. "You change your mind. You don’t want to marry that [expletive]. I feel fighting’s kind of similar. You can say one thing and think it’s going to go one way, but you don’t really know until you get in that cage and the door closes."
Of course, if you get cold feet at the altar there are repercussions. The woman you just changed your mind about might have something to say to you afterward, and so might the family and friends who showed up to see it. It’s not so different here, where UFC officials and MMA fans alike have no doubt already sized up this pairing and decided that they’re in for some fireworks. It makes sense. Guillard and Cerrone both like to hurt people on the feet. Neither seems to mind being hit in the face all that much. Together, they should make beautiful, violent music, right?
"You don’t know," Guillard said. "We both want to go in there and brawl and beat each other up, but you don’t really know if that’s going to happen that night."
Then again, you don’t know if you’re still going to be in a celebratory mood in time for the after-party, but that didn’t stop him from planning ahead. And by the way, if you’re wondering who got to choose the venue for the post-fight fun, just know that the party is located in "a cowboy bar," according to Guillard. And yes, he knows that it might not seem like the place where he would choose to spend a Saturday night.
"But me and my wife blend into anything," he said. "I can wear some honky tonk boots one day and have my pants sagging in the hood the next. I adapt to the environment."
For as long as Guillard and Cerrone are both upright and in a locked cage together, the environment is expected to be a hostile one. At least he knows he’ll have a friend with him through it all. At least there’s that.