It all started with a message on Twitter less than a week ago.
Melvin Guillard declared that he was leaving his camp at the Blackzilians and rejoining his old teammates at Jackson's MMA in New Mexico. It seemed simple enough at the time, but 24 hours later things became much more difficult.
Before Guillard could even pack his bags and head to the airport, he started seeing messages on Twitter that he was not going to be welcome back at Jackson's MMA, and he would have to find a new team.
Guillard explained when speaking to Bleacher Report on Thursday that the team at Jackson's MMA took a vote and ultimately decided against his return.
"I guess what happened was everybody read the tweet saying I was going back, and there were other things that happened. Some of the guys voted whether or not I was going to be able to go back or not, and some of the team was okay for it; some of the team wasn't. Coach Greg calls me up and tells me 'Melvin, some of the guys are for it, some aren't, so for right now my answer would have to be no. Maybe if some of the guys over time have a change of heart or whatever then it can be yes at some point, but just not right now,'" Guillard explained. I still have the invitation, it's still a possibility I can go, but at this point in my career I just turned 30 years old; I'm beginning that journey down the hill.
"I'm on the down slope of my career, and right now it's about getting as many wins as I can, and being able to even fight for a UFC lightweight title."
At first the news about being denied a return to Jackson's camp came as a shock, and after shock came some anger from Guillard, who couldn't understand why his former teammates would opt against him coming back there again. It took some wise words from his wife to make him understand just how the team at his former gym probably felt when he left to go train with the Blackzilians in Florida right in the midst of a war between two of the team's top fighters.
"There's no hard feelings. It is what it is," Guillard stated. "When you really look at the situation, I left Jackson's at a critical time. I left when Rashad (Evans) and Jon (Jones) was going through their little beef, and I took myself out of the equation and my wife made me look at it like this—take yourself out of the situation and look at someone else. 'If someone else had left the team and went to an opposing team and then tried to go back to that team, how would you feel about that?' I said, 'yeah you've got a good point.' That's kind of how it looked. Even though it wasn't like that, that's what it looked like to them."
Guillard holds no ill will towards the team at Jackson's the same way he has nothing against his former team at the Blackzilians. While Guillard admits the move to Florida was great for his home life, it didn't do as much as he hoped for his professional career.
During his time with the team, Guillard went 1-4 overall and to hear him explain it, he just never felt like he quite fit in with the coaches and other fighters there. Last week he knew it was time to move on.
"It was just me as a person, on a chemistry side I just didn't fit," Guillard said. "I just felt like it was time to go. I've got to go somewhere where I can get back to winning fights. Right now my job is probably on the line and my upcoming fight is a must-win fight. I feel like I need to do good work to get that win. That's why my decision was made.
"I love Florida and I don't think I'll ever leave Florida, but that said, I was kind of like a loner. I was an outsider. I was there when it was time to train, but I just didn't think it was fair to the other guys that were there. I think that was a reason why I had to leave as well—because it wasn't being fair to the other guys on the team."
When he first decided to leave the Blackzilians, Guillard admits he thought about joining American Top Team, another huge camp in Florida but because of a past strained relationship between that team and his manager Glenn Robinson, he didn't want to "put gasoline on the fire". For a few days, Guillard was a fighter without a home, but all it took was a call from a close friend and old mentor to set things back on track.
"Pat Barry called me when the tweets started going around that I got denied at Jackson's. Pat Barry calls me and goes 'I want you to call Coach Leister (Bowling), he's the wrestling coach out there at MusclePharm, and he works with a lot of great guys,'" said Guillard. "Me and Pat go way back since New Orleans, fighting when I was 16 years old. Pat's been like my big brother my whole career.
"When he reached out to me it was kind of cool. It was like a big brother saying it's time to get your butt back home and come train with me and that's kind of how I took it."
Leister Bowling is the head wrestling coach at the Grudge Training Center, where he works with several top UFC fighters including Shane Carwin and Brendan Schaub, and the head coach there is striking guru Trevor Wittman. Guillard and Wittman actually crossed paths before and even worked together briefly when he was preparing for his bout in Denver against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at UFC 150.
Quickly Guillard packed up a few things, boarded a plane to Colorado and sat down with Wittman to plot a course for his training camp and begin work on rebuilding "The Young Assassin."
"Coach Trevor welcomed me with open arms," said Guillard. "We put everything out on the table up front, we discussed what we needed to discuss and now we're on the same page. It works."
At home in Florida, Guillard was greeted everyday by his wife and he was able to relax on his couch and play video games on his giant screen television. Now he's literally living in the basement at the gym and the only thing he does is eat, sleep and train.
Guillard is looking to redeem himself on July 27 when he meets Mac Danzig at UFC on Fox 8, and between now and then the only thing on his mind is getting back to the place that saw him only one fight away from a UFC lightweight title shot less than two years ago.
"It's like watching that Rocky III movie," said Guillard. "It's like where you lose that hunger and you've got to go back to where you started and go back to the gutter and get hungry again. That's kind of how I feel sleeping in this basement. I need this basement, I'm going to stay down here in this basement. Right now I'm loving my little basement cot."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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