by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
When dealing with the best of the best at a gym like Xtreme Couture, you have to be strong and not one to back down from challenges.
Head jiu-jitsu instructor Neil Melanson is such an individual.
Upon graduating high school, Melanson spent seven years in the Navy, followed by five years as a Federal Air Marshal, before giving it all up to move to Los Angeles from Cincinnati to pursue martial arts under legendary teacher Gokor Chivichyan and UFC welterweight star Karo “The Heat” Parisyan.
It was during this time that Melanson was faced with the biggest challenge of his career, Behcet’s Syndrome, an ailment he was born with, but triggered during flying days, which temporarily rendered him blind in both eyes.
With the help of doctors, Melanson was able to regain sight in his right eye, and undeterred, continued to pursue his love of the ground game, which lead him to former UFC champion Randy Couture’s gym in November. And he hasn’t looked back.
MMAWeekly.com caught up with Melanson recently to discuss working with the sport’s elite at Xtreme Couture, as well as his upcoming series of books he hopes will invigorate a stagnating grappling scene.
“I was contacted by Eric Krauss at Victory Belt Publishing with my technique, style and knowledge of the sport,” said Melanson. He started doing book deals with me, and the first book coming out is (on) triangles from the guard.
“It’s a massive undertaking with tons of techniques from every guard system that’s out there that’s practical. I set it up in a manner that it’s based off the body position of your opponent in your guard and how your opponent moves inside your guard in a match; how he moves his hips will cause you to now adjust to a different guard system that’s constantly threatening with a triangle.”
Melanson contributing to Victory Belt’s line is nothing new. As part of a group of MMA personalities including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Anderson Silva and Forrest Griffin, he contributed over 70 techniques to their Ultimate Mixed Martial Artist book. And it doesn’t stop there.
“We have another book deal that I’ve already signed called Advanced Guard Systems,” he announced. “It’s going to be a modern approach to the guard based off how your opponent is playing you, the highest percentage (techniques) and how they flow from one system to another.
“I hope that book changes how people do no-gi (grappling) forever. After that we’re going to do a guillotine book, and possibly a figure-four system book and a turtle book. There’s a lot of books in the works right now, and we’re just working them out one at a time.”
Melanson knows what works by dealing with some of the best athletes MMA has to offer at the Xtreme Couture gym.
When asked how he deals with the stars of the sport and how he gets them to perform his way, he replied unapologetically, “Basically what I do is: I don’t give a rat’s ass who they are.
“That’s pretty much the best way I can say it. All I care about is the product I produce, so if I have to do what I have to do to get a fighter to fight the way they should be fighting, then I do it. If I need them to go harder, I’ll slap them in the face and get them pissed until they land what they’re supposed to, to protect themselves.”
Among the athletes Melanson has been most impressed by in his time at the gym is Couture himself, returning UFC fighter Vitor Belfort, and accomplished women’s fighter Erin Toughill. Combined with up-and-comers like Mike Dizak and Patrick Begin, Melanson feels he’s got the type of talent that makes his teaching truly worthwhile.
“I love to see these guys learn from me and succeed,” exclaimed Melanson. “I love my life and I couldn’t be happier.
“Things went up and down a lot for me; I had a lot of hopes and dreams of doing things with my life and find my niche. When I got into this sport, I never thought it would take me anywhere, but it has and I’m absolutely in love with my work.”
Whether it’s fending off an opponent on the ground, overcoming a vision-threatening condition or banging heads with the biggest stars in the sport, Neil Melanson takes on all challenges and is willing to put in the hard work to succeed.
“You can always find out what’s going on with me at NeilMelanson.com,” he concluded. “I’ll have updates when the books are going to be released.
“Hopefully these books will change things. If I can contribute something to this sport that’s not forgotten, I’ll die a happy man.”