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UFC Fight for the Troops 2: Melvin Guillard hunting for a world title shot with a win over Evan Dunham

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On Jan. 22 in Fort Hood, Texas, Melvin Guillard (26-8-2) will go toe-to-toe with Evan Dunham (11-1) at UFC Fight Night 23: "Fight for the Troops 2."

Guillard went 16-4-2 for independent promotions before getting his big break with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). "The Young Assassin" tells Pro MMA Radio where he was when he got the call to join The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 2 show.

"They just called my gym. I was actually training to defend one of my kickboxing titles and they called the gym phone. They brought me the phone and I thought it was a prank call so I hung the phone up. They called right back and they said ‘Hey this is the Spike TV cast crew for TUF, are you able to come out for some physicals and possibly interviews.' They flew me out that week."

Guillard has come a long way since his 2005 debut with the largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion in the world. The 155-pound wrecking ball from New Orleans says it was about getting with the right people.

"It's one thing Dana (White) told me from the beginning. ‘Kid you've got a great future, you're very explosive, but you just need to get with the right team.' I was trying to find that team. I thought I had that chemistry in Houston under Saul Soliz, but unfortunately that didn't work out. After fighting Joe Stevenson, I got with Joe and he said ‘Hey I'll bring you up to Jackson's.' I actually talked to coach Greg when I was in my locker room right before I fought Gleison Tibau. That was the one gyms that I found that has the world's greatest coach, but also the greatest personalities and attitudes inside the gym."

After going 3-0 in his last three bouts, it looks like Guillard found the right team.

While all is well for "The Young Assassin" in 2011, 2007 was a different story. After losing his bout to Stevenson, Guillard submitted a urine sample positive for cocaine. He was suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission and fined $2,100.

"For a long time I blamed my dad's death for a lot of stuff that I did, but one thing my dad taught me was I never should make an excuse for why I did something. I did it because Melvin wanted too. I've always been a leader. If I chose to do something, it's because I wanted to do it. Looking back on it now, I'm kind of happy I got busted because I probably would have thrown my whole career away because of drug use."

One of the improvements that Guillard has made is getting the proper training and coaching in order to perform to the best of his abilities. It's an improvement he wishes he made earlier in his career.

"The only emotional fight I can recall was the Rich Clementi fight. That was a fight if I could have back I would because I knew better. I knew not to go into a fight hating someone. I think for me it was just poor training and lack of coaching."

Those days are history as Guillard has been on a roll as of late.

"My last three fights with these guys (Jackson camp), they've walked me through victory. It's almost like they see it, they call it and I just pull the trigger. I didn't have that before."

Early in his career, Guillard's biggest weakness was his ground game. After working with the fighters at Greg Jackson's camp, he no longer worries about keeping the fight standing.

"I used to be afraid of going to the ground because I knew that was my weakness, but I honestly have to say after working with Joe "Daddy" and Clay Guida, especially Donald Cerrone (it helped me). I probably won't submit anybody in the UFC because that's not what the fans want and I know that's not what my boss wants. My boss knows me as a striker."

On Jan. 22 Guillard may be facing his toughest test yet in lightweight prospect Dunham. Despite being a replacement when Kenny Florian was forced off the card due to an injury, Guillard says it's a match-up that he deserved.

"The Dunham fight was a blessing in disguise and I also feel that the fight was more deserving to me anyway. I felt I should have been in that spot before Kenny Florian. He had his shot, he had his chance. He's had several chances and he's blown it. Let some of us other 155'ers have our chance. We work just as hard as those guys. Why should those guys always get the title shot?"

"The Young Assassin" has always been a hard worker, which is why he doesn't want a title shot handed to him.

"I want a title shot. I will fight whoever I have to fight. I'm gonna earn my way to that belt. I don't want anybody to say they gave Melvin Guillard anything."

Can Guillard meet his expectations and defeat Dunham? Tune in to UFC Fight Night 23 live from Fort Hood, Texas on Jan. 22 free on Spike TV to find out.

For more on Guillard, check out the replay of MMAmania.com's exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio by clicking here.

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