“My destiny is happening,” says UFC lightweight contender Melvin Guillard days before his UFC 132 clash with Shane Roller. “I’m loving my life right now and I’m riding a sober high. My life has been a bit of a detour but at least I’ve taken control of it.”

Just a few years ago, the 28-year-old with limitless potential was suspended for cocaine use and saw his life spiraling out of control. But the New Orleans fighter who saw his family displaced by Hurricane Katrina is cut from a different cloth. UFC president Dana White saw the potential in Guillard and didn’t cut him when the organization would have been well within their rights to release the self-destructing fighter. “They believed in me when they didn’t have to,” Guillard says. “That’s when I knew that I had to change my life.”

Being a professional fighter since the age 14 with over 100 fights under his belt, Guillard has been used to the fast life. “I was just a young kid out there being wild,” Guillard says. “When you’re young and making money, you don’t know what to do. When I made my first $10k I didn’t even put it in the bank. I went to the mall and just cut loose and took all my friends out. Reality set in when it was gone.”

Drug use and a lifestyle of partying soon followed. At age 17, Guillard would compete on the Las Vegas strip and hit the craps tables before partying into the wee hours of the morning. He admits that he didn’t take care of his body and relied solely on his untapped potential to get him by. Despite his reckless lifestyle, he was granted the opportunity to fight in the UFC and appeared on The Ultimate Fighter reality series in 2005. But raw talent alone wouldn’t take him to the top and he would lose the competition. The positive cocaine test against Joe Stevenson in 2007 would have signaled the end of a tumultuous career for many, but Guillard would grab life’s steering wheel and save his tail spinning career before it was too late.

Since 2007, Guillard has settled down with his new wife Tache and joined Greg Jackson Submission Fighting team. Gone are the days of drugs and partying. Today’s version of Melvin Guillard is disciplined and focused on accomplishing one goal – becoming the UFC lightweight champion.“I’m 28 now and I’ve allowed myself to endure all the bad things at a young age. I’m not ashamed to talk about my past. That’s my drive. I’m glad that I hit rock bottom early,” Guillard says. “The Young Assassin” is currently riding a four fight winning streak while taking home a knockout of the night bonus when he demolished Evan Dunham back in January. For Guillard, the stars are aligning at just the right time as his maturity has made him championship worthy. “If I would have won a world title at 21, I would have ruined my life. I probably wouldn’t be sitting in front of you right now.”

The drugs, the partying, the hard times as a kid in New Orleans and the failures have all made Guillard who he is today. And now nobody can deny Guillard from greatness. For him, there have been no handouts; he has fought tooth and nail for everything he has. “Nobody could ever look back on my career and say that they gave me this opportunity. I’m going to earn mine,” he says. “I look at fighters who stand across the cage from me and I feel in my heart that they don’t have a chance because they haven’t endured what I’ve been though.”

Now all he has to do is what he does best, knockout another fighter in devastating fashion.

“I’ve got to go in here and really smash this dude to show them that he doesn’t belong in the ring with me,” he says. “I’m not going to be happy gutting out a win. I have to destroy this kid.”
Although championship aspirations are high on his things to do list, Guillard can walk around feeling like a champion.“I feel like I’ve already won my title because I won my life back.”