Mike Guymon clutched his green beads tight. There weren’t many people wearing them on October 9th. Most participants in the Out of The Darkness Suicide Walk fundraising event in Irvine wore white beads because they lost a child, blue for supporting the cause, orange for losing a brother or sister, or purple if they lost a relative or friend to suicide. Guymon’s green beads represented a different struggle.
“It’s for people who are having a hard time or who had tried committing suicide,” he said. It was the first time I was really involved with something with what I tried to do, and it was hard, but it’s sort of a healing process in a way.”
In August of 2009, Guymon hit bottom. And in a story well-documented throughout the mixed martial arts world, his suicide attempt was prevented by quick action from his wife Nichole and good friend Jim Amormino, a member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Two months later, he was back to his day job as a professional fighter, stopping Quinn Mulhern in four rounds. By January, he was in the UFC and pursuing his dream to fight in the Octagon. His recovery has been a ‘feel good’ story for all who have heard it, but he still remains a man taking things a day at a time. And the first part of Saturday, October 9th was a rough one, especially since he went from the suicide walk event to an appearance where he met fans who wanted to spend some time with a UFC fighter.
“I started crying that day, early in the morning, and right after that, I had to do an appearance and I had to smile, greet people, take pictures, sign autographs, and it’s kinda like how my life has always been,” he said. “I had that dark side and that happy side, and I had to display both that day.”
But he made it, just like he has every day since his darkest hour over a year ago.
“Now with the help and friends and support I have, I’m able to do that much more effectively and deal with those inside demons I have,” he said. And one of the key parts of his daily life has become communicating with those who have walked the same path he has.
“At least once a week I have an email from somebody that is having a hard time or has tried doing it (attempting suicide), or how my story has helped them cope with it and understand how to deal with depression in life,” he said. “They thought, man, even people that are successful are in the same place that I am. I can offer them advice, and it’s all confidential. I handle it through emails or even on Facebook people private message me, and that’s why I am open about it. I want to help someone. I know what it feels like to be in that situation and have that dark cloud over your head and I always tell people that I feel like a dark spot on the sun. My depression’s always there, it will never go away, I just know how to deal with it better.”
As evidence of this, you need look no further than the aftermath of his UFC debut against Rory MacDonald in January. Submitted via armbar in the first round, Guymon’s first Octagon loss was followed by the news that his dog Bishop had died. Yet he soldiered through, hoping that the phone was going to ring for another UFC bout. It did, and he was going to Montreal in May to take on Japan’s Yoshiyuki Yoshida. Now the pressure was really on.
“I knew I was in that position – it’s two and done in the UFC now and I understood that,” he said. “My first UFC fight, it was a dream making it there, but it was also a dream of mine to win in the UFC (Laughs), and I didn’t have my head screwed on straight because of some business and all this stuff was going on. The Yoshida fight, everything was in the right place.”
Well, it was at least until two days before the fight, when Guymon fractured his knee and tore his meniscus.
“It was locking up and painful, but it was one of those mind over matter things – I’m gonna go in there, accomplish this and wherever the fight goes, I want to be on top,” said Guymon, who went on with the fight and pounded out an impressive three round unanimous decision victory. “I stuck to my gameplan and I’m very proud of that fight.”
And rightfully so, as it closed the first chapter of an 11 year tale that saw him make his pro MMA debut in 1999, fight his way up the ranks, and finally get his shot in the big show. The win was the icing on the cake, icing Guymon (13-3-1) wondered if he’d ever get a taste of.
“That happened a lot actually,” he said. “I’ve been fighting a long time and I fought guys that were undefeated and had the notoriety and stuff like that, and I went through ‘em and beat ‘em in good fashion with nice technical fights. I was like ‘man, what’s the deal? When’s it gonna be my shot?’ I never thought it was gonna happen.”
It did though, and now the plan isn’t just to say ‘okay, I made it and I got my UFC win;’ for the 36-year old, it’s about building off the momentum from the Yoshida fight and keep piling on the victories. His first shot at that end of the deal comes this Saturday night in his backyard of Anaheim, as he takes on welterweight prospect Daniel ‘Ninja’ Roberts.
“He’s a great wrestler, a NAIA All-American, his submission game is great, but there are a lot of holes in his striking game and obviously I want to fight him at his weakness,” said Guymon. “I want to test his chin, I don’t think he’s really been tested up there and hopefully my wrestling is enough to keep him on his feet and let him stand with me and see how he can handle that pressure.”
That’s not to say there isn’t pressure on Guymon as well, considering he’s fighting in front of family, friends, and fans who have followed him his entire career. And a loss is never good for your UFC longevity, but Guymon appears to have come to a peaceful point in his life where he will control what he can, and let go what he can’t. And whatever happens after that will happen, in and out of the Octagon.
“I could care less about winning the title in the UFC; I just want to be there, be successful, and keep winning,” he said. “I’ll fight whoever (matchmaker) Joe (Silva) matches me up with. I’m not asking for anything, and I know I need to go out there and work for anything that comes between me and that W. Daniel, I have nothing personal against him and I know he’s a good fighter and he’s in the UFC for a reason; he’s a challenge and I want to beat him. My skills are always getting better and I want to put that on display and I want to do that against Daniel. Hopefully, God willing, everything works out, I get that hand raised at the end of the night, and I go from there. Then it starts the whole process over again, and I just keep trying to better myself mentally, physically, and on all ends of the spectrum.”
And if it sounds like a Hollywood ending is in the making, with the local kid coming home to fight after surviving some harrowing ordeals over the years, that’s about right. But we’ll let the man known as “The Joker” finish writing the ending.
“It ends with a win, my hand raised, and I’ll be smiling,” he said. “I will not be crying. (Laughs) I’ll have the biggest grin on my face, and I’ll tackle Joe Rogan when he comes in the Octagon.”