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Melvin Guillard, WSOF's vice president Ali Abdel-Aziz air grievances on media call

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The World Series of Fighting 15 pre-fight conference call was moving along fine -- if a little clumsily -- when Melvin Guillard was finally patched through. Then things got a little contentious.

The longtime UFC veteran Guillard, who fights Justin Gaethje for the WSOF lightweight title on Saturday night in Tampa, Florida, took umbrage to some opening comments by WSOF senior executive vice president Ali Abdel-Aziz.

To kick the call off, Abdel-Aziz addressed some sentiments that Guillard made in the press this week, in which he told MMA Mania that "Gaethje is nowhere near my level -- I’m an A list fighter, fighting in the B league."

Abdel-Aziz pointed out that, though he was looking forward to the fight, he didn’t like that assessment.

"Melvin Guillard is an A level fighter. Justin Gaethje is an A level fighter. And I think this is the people’s main event," Abdel-Aziz said. "It’s not the main event, but this is my main event. I’m going to be standing and watching this fight. Melvin knows he’s a professional. When he prepares for a B level fighter, I don’t think it’s a good way to think about it.

"Listen, Melvin, he’s man and he can talk and he can promote as much as he wants, it’s what Melvin do -- and I love it," Abdel-Aziz said. "But if he thinks he’s fighting a B level fighter, in a B level league, he’s making A level money…but everybody can win or lose. If he ends up losing, maybe he goes to the F league. I hope he’s ready. I hope Justin’s ready. I think it’s going to be fight of the night and I’m looking forward to it."

Later on, after Gaethje had answered a few questions saying essentially that he and Guillard were going to put on a show, Guillard was asked what his response was to Gaethje implying that he wasn’t on his level.

"Man, I’m going to tell you what my response is," he said. "I sit here and I listen and I take it, and first of all, I don’t respect one of the vice president’s taking a jab at me because of the way I word things to my interviews.

"I don’t care what organization I fight for, I’m a fighter. I don’t back down from no fights, I’ll fight anybody, and I’ve got well over 200 fights. Justin Gaethje is 15-0. I still remember when I was 22-0 and I was 18 at the time. Alright? Records don’t mean sh*t. What means [something] is when we get in that cage Saturday night, who’s going to want it? He can sit there and say I ain’t on his level.

"He knows it ain’t true, and Ali and them know it ain’t true either. I’m a motherf*cking warrior, and I’m going to take what’s mine on Saturday, and they’re going to look up and say, ‘who’s next?’"

The call livened up from there. Gaethje, who trains at the Grudge Training Center where he and Guillard used to be teammates, said, "I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t know it."

Guillard took exception to Gaethje going to the media with the things he had to say, and the two engaged in a back-and-forth verbal spat. Among some of the better things being slung was when Guillard said that "[Gaethje’s] the lightweight champion of an organization and nobody knows who he is," and chided the WSOF for treating him as a stepping stone to further Gaethje’s reputation.

Gaethje responded in kind by saying, "I’m getting paid after I put you to sleep."

Later in the call, when he was asked for his comments on what Guillard had said, Abdel-Aziz then engaged in a back-and-forth with Guillard as well.

"Listen, I’ve been a big fan of Melvin’s for a long time," he said. "We used to train together at the same time. I respect Melvin as a fighter, and I think he’s accomplished a lot in the sport. But, I think if I’m a fighter, or if I fight for a promotion, I think I’m a top fighter. If I think I’m fighting in a B level league or against a B level fighter, I’m putting myself down.

"Justin is ranked higher than Melvin; it doesn’t mean Melvin’s better than Justin or Justin’s better than Melvin. On Saturday these guys are going to go in there, and they don’t like each other. I like both of them. But yesterday to be honest with you, to Melvin as a man, and Melvin everything he asked me for I did it for him, but when I hear we’re a B level league, I think it’s bringing all of us down. Because I look at him as an tough A+ fighter…him, Justin, [strawweight] Jessica [Aguilar], and all of us are A level. There’s no B level here. B level…if you think he’s B level, you’re going to lose on Saturday, and you’ve already lost. Then you’re going to go to the F level. That’s what I said. It was nothing against Melvin. I didn’t like what Melvin said."

From there Guillard jumped in, wondering why Abdel-Aziz didn’t call him directly if he had a problem with what he said in the media. Later he clarified his original comments.

"As far as me fighting for the title? I’m honored. I’m eager. This is my chance to put a gold belt around my waist to solidify my legacy," Guillard said later on in the call. "I never looked at the World Series like they were less than the UFC. I feel the World Series organization, as far as the organization goes, is right up there with the UFC. As far as some of the fighters that are in the World Series, and I’m talking fighters – they’re trying to get where I’ve been. And don’t let none of them fool you and think for one second that they’re never going to want to f*cking jump ship and go to the UFC. Because that’s what everybody does. Because they ain’t never going to have a name for themselves until they crossover, unless this organization will grow and prosper they way they should be. But it’s going to take time.

"If not you’ve got guys going into the UFC fighting two fights and done, and then they are known as UFC fighters. That’s just not cool either. So I’m looking at this sport as a whole, bro. I’ve been around just as long as Mr. Randy Couture, and to see how I’ve ended up now? I’m trying to hold onto the last bit of respect of how fighters should be. That’s all I was saying in my interview."