Being at the doorstep of a lightweight title shot has some questioning Melvin Guillard’s desire to fight Joe Lauzon at UFC 136 Saturday night in Houston.
It’s well-documented that Guillard has an affinity for Houston, where he lived for a few years after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown of New Orleans in 2005. But after his first-round knockout of Shane Roller in July, he could have requested a spot on the UFC Fight Night Live card last month. That card was held in New Orleans.
“I didn’t want to fight in New Orleans because [UFC 136] is a stacked card,” Guillard told ESPN.com. “It’s an all-star card. And I want to be able to outshine everybody on this card. I want to make sure that everybody knows I am the real deal.”
But will an impressive victory over Lauzon raise many eyebrows? Lauzon has talent, but is regarded by most as a middle-of-the-pack lightweight. He isn’t in anyone’s top-10 lightweight rankings and his name doesn't comes up when the topic of title contention arises. Is taking on Lauzon for the sake of competing in Houston really worth sacrificing a lightweight title shot?
“Joe Lauzon is a very tough competitor,” Guillard said. “He’s very good in jiu-jitsu. There is a lot of risk going into this fight.
“I’ve been in this sport for 15½ years. And it’s not like I haven’t been taking risks these 15½ years that I’ve been fighting. I was taking risks before there was a UFC for me. I was taking risks trying to get to the UFC. It doesn’t matter to me, I’m a risk-taker. I live my life on chances.”
Some would call Guillard’s logic foolish, especially on the heels of what happened to Jim Miller, who was on the cusp of a lightweight title shot and could have sat on the sideline until UFC matchmaker Joe Silva called his name. Instead, he opted to stay busy and agreed to fight Benson Henderson in August.
Henderson defeated Miller by unanimous decision, and now the former WEC 155-pound champ finds himself in the UFC title mix. Miller is no longer being considered for a title shot at this time.
Guillard, however, doesn’t fault Miller for deciding to remain active. He applauds Miller and others like him who refuse to accept shortcuts to the top.
“There are guys in the UFC who have had three, four or five title shots,” Guillard said. “Some of them have choked and still haven’t gotten a title after getting three tries.
“If something happens and I don’t make it to a title shot, I expect to be put back in the barrel and shaken around and put back in the mix like everybody else,” Guillard said. “I don’t expect to get right back to the top of the heap.
“You have to fight your way toward the top. Some guys are getting their hands held; they’re getting babied. And they still can’t capture the ultimate thing -- that’s the belt. I feel in my heart that if I fight for it and earn it people will respect me a lot more. The fans will respect me. There are guys getting title shots right now and the fans are still questioning if they are that good.”