This weekend, at UFC Fight Night 37, Melvin Guillard will take on his former teammate, Michael Johnson, in a critical Lightweight matchup. Both men are hoping to crack the top 10 and make a statement to the entire division.
I recently sat down with Guillard to discuss fighting a former teammate, fighting opponents on short notice, what motivates him to continue fighting, and much more.
His thoughts going into to UFC Fight Night 37
I feel good physically. The only thing I have a problem with is since Ross pulled out I have to go over there and fight in London when I am not fighting anyone from there. They take the taxes out up front so it’s a bit of a headache. I am excited to still go to get to visit London. My last fight was in Manchester so that’s cool. Other than that, I feel great. I am physically and mentally ready for the fight.
The difficulty of fighting an opponent on short notice
I don’t train to fight certain guys specifically, I train to fight period. When I prepare myself for every fight, I step into the ring ready no matter what; whether it is a jiu-jitsu guy, a stand-up guy, I am ready. The only extra training I might do if I am fighting a ground guy I will do a little more jiu-jitsu. In MMA a lot of guys get hurt and you have to switch opponents. You are only crippling yourself if you commit yourself to training for one specific opponent. This fight I didn’t really have to change anything. Michael Johnson is a stand up fighter. His wrestling does not pose a problem because it is not as good as mine. I am not worried about his wrestling.
His thoughts on fighting in the co-main event
I’ve been doing this for so long. This year will be my 18th year fighting in MMA. For me, it doesn’t really matter where I am at on the card. Everybody wants to see me fight. Over the years I have gained a good popularity for myself. People just love watching me fight. I am not worried about what place I am on the card. For me, co-main event, main event, undercard is all the same. Everybody is going to get to see it on TV.
His thoughts on Michael Johnson
We are former teammates. To be honest I never really cared for the guy as a person. He is a good fighter, but as a person he is a bit of a douche. He is not one of my favorite people in the world, so I’m excited to get in there and beat him up. I am the one who asked for the fight. Once Ross pulled out, I asked for Michael Johnson. It is a fight that I have been wanting and I am going to make sure I am ready for it.
Who got the better of whom in training?
Majority of the time we went at it. I was always the stronger and bigger guy. I am definitely the harder hitter. Mike is quick though man. He is always in shape and I know he will be ready. He is going to train for this fight as if he is going to train for a championship fight because I am not an easy fight for anybody. That being said, I think it plays into my favor because all the nerves will be with him. I am not nervous at all going into this fight. I know what I need to do to be ready. I need to be in cardio shape and nobody can beat me. When I am in shape nobody beats me.
Weaknesses of Michael Johnson he is looking to exploit
He doesn’t really have a lot of weaknesses in his striking game. He is a very decent striker. He has a great coach in Henri Hooft. I was fortunate to train with him as well. There is a lot of things I picked up on the way from Henri that I am pretty sure Mike will be working on. He worked with both of us back in the day. There is nothing I am really trying to expose, I am going to just go in there and do what I do best which is knock people out. I am undefeated against Southpaws, and I don’t plan on losing now. I am very confident for this fight.
Training and watching film before this fight
I focus on my strengths, but it depends on who the opponent is. In this case, yes I am watching film. I used to train with the guy, and it has been a little over a year since we trained together. People learn new stuff and pick up on some new stuff, but one thing I learned about fighters is that everybody eventually goes back to their comfort zone. What I mean is that every fighter has something that they do that is repetitive. No matter what they always go back to their bread and butter. Something in them, their muscle memory, allows them to do it every time. That is what I am looking for when I watch film on a fighter. That is the key to knocking guys out and finishing fights.
Do you still get nerves?
Most of the time my wife will make me freaking nervous. She gets so stressed out before a fight. It’s funny because she has been around me for so long. She has been to every fight and through all my training camps. Yet, she still lets the nerves get the better of her sometimes. For me, I don’t really get that nervous. It doesn’t bother me at all. I am a fighter bro, and I am coming to fight. I was born to fight and I have been fighting for a long time. I have been fighting since I was 14 years old. I was fighting grown men at that age, so I have no reason to be afraid. I just need to go in there and do what I need to on my end. I have to be in shape, so that I can go 15 minutes if needed.
What keeps you motivated to continue fighting?
The money keeps me motivated. At this point in my career it is all about making as much money as I can. I will be 31 this March and everybody is already talking about when I am planning on retiring. When my body stops letting me train and work, then I will stop. Until then I won’t stop and I plan on fighting for a long time. I still think I have another 12 or 13 years left in me. I don’t want to stop fighting because when it is over, it is over. I want to fight as long as I can.
His desire to still fight Ross Pearson
I still want that fight with Ross. I felt it was kind of flaky when I read his tweet saying that he has a minor ACL tear, but he would be back soon. There are guys that fake injuries so they don’t have to fight someone in particular. Then a month or two later they come around and they are suddenly ready. I already asked Dana if he could save Ross Pearson for me on the 4th of July card. If he is hurt, I take my hat off to him hope he heals up. Before he comes back and fights someone else though, I really feel like he should fight me. I have a no contest on my record, which I thought I should have won the fight. The fans want to see the fight; Dana wants to see the fight, so I think it should happen. Now that I have to fight Michael Johnson in London, on terms that I don’t really want to fight on being that I don’t really want to fight in London right now, I feel like Ross should come fight me on my terms on 4th of July weekend in Vegas.