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Melvin Guillard Aims to Silence Detractors in Fight Against Dunham

Melvin Guillard woke up one morning and realized that he had to change his life. Then he did. It's as simple as that, the UFC lightweight told MMA Fighting.

"I made a lot of mistakes after my father died," said Guillard. "I made a lot of excuses for myself, and that's something I don't do now. I don't make excuses. Everything I did, I did because I wanted to do. Nobody ever forced me to do anything. I used my dad's death as a scapegoat to be able to get away with things I was doing, and that was wrong. My dad taught me not to make excuses, and using his death as an excuse is one of the most hurtful things I could have done."

Some of Guillard's personal problems are already a matter of public record, such as when he tested positive for cocaine following a loss to Joe Stevenson in 2007. But beyond just that, Guillard said, was a core problem with his attitude toward life.

"That's one thing about me now, I used to be a real negative person," Guillard said. "I had a brash personality and was real cocky, probably because I had so many negative people around me. Now I don't have that."
Anybody who thinks I played it safe, they can kiss my a--.
-- Melvin Guillard

Instead, Guillard has replaced them with some of those most positive figures you can find in the sport of MMA – people like trainers Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. Now he's a part of the team at Jackson's gym in Albuquerque, and the difference it's made in his life over the past year has been evident both in and outside of the cage.

He's a more patient fighter than he used to be, said Guillard. He thinks before charging straight into his opponents. He follows a game plan. He plays to his strengths.

The change prompted an unbeaten year and three straight victories in 2010, but it also earned him some criticism from fans and media for his tactical approach to a fight with Jeremy Stephens at UFC 119, where Guillard took home a split decision victory. But there's a difference between smart and boring, Guillard said, even if his detractors might not appreciate it.

"Look at the way I fought Jeremy Stephens, and then look at Marcus Davis, who was winning the fight and then got knocked out. Now he's cut from the UFC, so that's all I'll say on that," Guillard explained. "I don't worry about the critics. I never cared about them anyway. I did exactly what my coaches told me to do. I fought how I was supposed to fight, and that's that."

At the same time, it's not as if Guillard hasn't heard the criticism. He has, and he's tired of it. He wishes people would watch the fight in slow-motion so they could see how rarely he actually got hit and how easily he landed blows of his own. Failing that, he wishes people would just shut up about it in general, he said.

"I didn't play it safe; I fought a smart fight. I had a lot of respect from Jeremy Stephens' power. I knew the guy hits hard. So if I sit there and let him hit me, of course I'll get knocked out. I don't think it's playing it safe if you go out there and fight a smart fight. Anybody who thinks I played it safe, they can kiss my a--."

In part because of his recent winning streak, and also because of an injury to Kenny Florian, Guillard now finds himself in perhaps his toughest and most important UFC fight to date against Evan Dunham at Fight for the Troops 2 on Saturday night.
I know for a fact Evan Dunham won [the Sean Sherk] fight.
-- Melvin Guillard

When Guillard got offered the fight, he didn't even have to think about it, he said. Originally, he'd been scheduled to take on Yves Edwards, a friend and former mentor, and he was never that excited about the idea.

"I didn't want that fight, but I never turn down a fight, so when the UFC called and said, 'Hey, you've got to fight Yves,' I stepped up and said, 'Okay, I'll fight Yves,'" Guillard said. "But when they switched the fight I felt a lot better about it."

Now against Dunham, who Guillard said he still considers to be unbeaten even after a controversial decision loss to Sean Sherk at UFC 119, he has a chance to vault himself into the upper echelon of the division with a victory.

"I know for a fact that Evan Dunham won that fight," Guillard said. "Sherk even told him in the back that he really won that. I don't even know what the judges were watching. Honestly, I think Evan Dunham's still undefeated, and now I get to beat an undefeated fighter. That's great for me."

Great if he wins, at least. But while the old Melvin might have gone at Dunham full speed and relied too heavily on athleticism and attitude to win the fight, the new one has a plan that he's going to stick to. He also has a new motivating force in his life – a goal of silencing everyone who told him he'd never do anything with his life. If not for a couple recent changes, he said, he might have accidentally proved them right.

"I remember in high school I had teachers who would tell me that I wasn't going to ever be sh-t. Now look at me. Those same teachers will try and contact me through my little brothers and sisters that go to that same high school, and they say, 'Hey, tell Melvin congratulations.' I think that's bullsh-t.

"As a kid growing up, a teacher's supposed to be there for you and give you some motivation. But I had a lot of them telling me I'd never be sh-t. Now they want to be my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. They want to know me now because I'm doing something with my life. That's my drive. That's my motivation, to show people that I can be something."

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