Donald Cerrone does not mince words when discussing a plan of attack for Melvin Guillard at UFC 150.
“I’m gonna give it hell,” Cerrone said during a pre-fight media call. “I’m sure Melvin’s never been knocked out. I’m gonna kick his ass ... and kick him and kick him.”
Coming from a noted pot stirrer like Cerrone, those words are actually pretty tame. After all, the “Cowboy” did once say he hoped to literally kill Jamie Varner prior to their rematch at WEC 51 in 2010. The Colorado native has also spewed much harsher venom toward the likes of Cole Miller, Nam Phan, Nate Diaz and Mac Danzig -- to name a few -- over the course of his Zuffa tenure. This time, however, Cerrone’s words had a different feel, like a training partner taking a playful jab at a teammate after a sparring session in the gym.
As recently as October, that was pretty close to the truth, as Cerrone and Guillard were teammates at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, N.M. One day, Cerrone, a national champion kickboxer, might teach Guillard the value of low kicks by cracking his legs repeatedly. The next, Guillard, a former high school state wrestling champion, might drill Cerrone on a new takedown technique. Both men will candidly admit that each had his day against the other in Greg Jackson’s dojo, but it has been months since they shared the same cage and mat space. Cerrone expects to see an evolved version of “The Young Assassin” when they square off on Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“I’m definitely not overconfident. He’s been away [from Jackson’s MMA] for a year. I don’t know what Melvin’s been doing,” Cerrone said. “He says he’s been improving his striking. It’s not like I [used to] just go in there and beat him down [when we trained together]; the dude throws down. The guy comes and he finishes fights in the first round. He hits hard. He’s also a good wrestler. Melvin taught me a lot about wrestling, so he knows exactly what I’m gonna do to try to take him down. It’s gonna be fireworks.”
Guillard began to distance himself from the respected New Mexico camp prior to facing Joe Lauzon at UFC 136, spending several weeks training with the recently formed Blackzilians team. After “The Ultimate Fighter 2” alum suffered a surprising loss at the hands of Lauzon, he permanently relocated to Boca Raton, Fla. Guillard, who resurrected his career with a five-fight winning streak from February 2010 to July 2011 under the tutelage of trainers Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, insists the split was amicable.
Cerrone concurs and has spent the better part of the last month training in his native Colorado, away from Jackson’s and his usual routine.
“Denver has the altitude, and Melvin and I trained a lot together with Greg,” Cerrone said. “I kind of went away from Greg for this fight a little bit and just did my own thing. I didn’t want Melvin to think that Greg was giving me all his secrets. This fight between Melvin and I is nothing but professional. There’s no personal beef, no nothing.”
Jackson will be in Cerrone’s corner, however. Unlike the Carlos Condit-Georges St. Pierre situation, where both fighters maintain a relationship with the trainer, Guillard is no longer part of the gym’s extended family.
“He’s definitely gonna be in my corner,” Cerrone said. “I just haven’t been training with him for the past four weeks; no beef or anything with me and Greg. Greg worked with Melvin a lot, and we were great teammates. I didn’t want Melvin to think that all we were doing was taking him apart.”
Not long after Cerrone handily dispatched Jeremy Stephens at UFC on Fuel TV 3 in May, he began lobbying for a spot on the promotion’s Denver card. After missing out on UFC 135, the last event to be held in the Mile High City, the “Cowboy” was eager to finally step into the Octagon in his home state. At the top of his wish list was Anthony Pettis, the former WEC lightweight champion and YouTube highlight king.
As time passed, it became apparent that matchup would not come to fruition. While Cerrone commends Guillard for taking the fight on short notice, his opinion of Pettis -- who is currently nursing a shoulder ailment -- is not especially high.
“I’ve just been trying to fight Anthony for a while now, and every time I suggest it, his manager comes back and says, ‘Well, we’re not really ... maybe ‘Cowboy’ could fight somebody else right now.’ It’s just always an excuse not to fight. He wants to just sit and hide behind his win over Ben [Henderson] and keep trying to ride that gravy train,” Cerrone said, “but there’s fighters that want to fight him and prove that he’s just all talk. That is a fight I definitely want.
“I’m not overlooking Melvin, mind you,” he continued. “That’s the fight I was lobbying for first before Melvin stepped up. It was Pettis; [he] said his shoulder won’t be ready until October. Melvin stepped up to the plate, which is awesome. I’m so glad he did.”
At one point in 2011, Cerrone and Guillard were on the precipice of 155-pound title contention. Both men have since fallen in the divisional pecking order. Guillard suffered back-to-back losses to Lauzon and Jim Miller, while Cerrone experienced a humbling setback courtesy of Diaz, but the former stablemates have recently gotten back into the win column. An impressive victory at UFC 150 could significantly raise the victor’s profile in the company.
That is why, for 15 minutes at most, friendships will be set aside as careers take precedence.