Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
UFC: Fight For The Troops 2 Main Card
Get ready to throw another name into the conversation of top contenders in the UFC lightweight division.
The 155-pound weight class, which most consider the organization's toughest division, will have yet another fighter close to a title shot after Saturday's UFC: Fight For The Troops 2 Main Event in Fort Hood, Texas, between Evan Dunham (11-1) and Melvin Guillard (26-8-2).
"This is a big fight in the 155-pound division," UFC President Dana White said. "The winner of this fight, it puts them right in the mix in the already-stacked, waiting-in-line 155-pound division."
That sounded reassuring to both Dunham and Guillard, who probably had some uncertainty about their standing before White's comments on a recent teleconference.
Dunham suffered the first loss of his career in his last fight, albeit one many disagreed with, while Guillard was moved up to this Main Event only after an injury forced Kenny Florian to pull out.
Guillard had been scheduled to fight Yves Edward in a preliminary bout. But Guillard doesn't talk like a late replacement and said he felt like it was only a matter of time before he proved himself to the rest of the mixed martial arts community.
"I feel like I'm the best fighter at 155," Guillard said. "I just need a chance to show it."
"I'm trying to get my title shot before 2011 ends."
Dunham has similar hopes of receiving an upcoming championship fight.
It would have been easy for UFC President Dana White to roll his eyes and shake off that talk from both fighters. There are already plenty of talented fighters in the lightweight division working toward a title shot after Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard face off in a rematch for the belt — Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller and George Sotiropoulos, to name a few.
But White said Guillard's and Dunham's comments were exactly what he wanted to hear.
"When guys talk like that and those are the kinds of things guys say and the kinds of things fighters want, I notice," White said. "There's no doubt about it."
White also surely noticed both of the fighters' comments about participating on the Fight For The Troops card. It's a unique opportunity, as the octagon will be placed in the middle of a Foot Hood military base hangar.
Tickets were available to military personnel only and proceeds will go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a charity designed to assist families who lost loved ones in combat and soldiers who have been severely injured.
The first UFC: Fight For The Troops, held in December 2008, raised $4 million for the cause.
"It's a blessing for me to even be able to give a performance I'm going to give these guys," Guillard said. "To me, it's all part of being an American, and I'm honored."
Guillard grew up in a military family and lives with an Army sergeant while he spends time in Albuquerque, N.M., training with famed MMA instructor Greg Jackson.
He said he couldn't wait to give back to the troops by putting on a memorable show against Dunham — and move up the lightweight rankings in the process.
"There's so much talent right now in that 155-pound class, it's crazy," White said. "But it's a good thing. It's a good problem to have."