Jesse Taylor has resurfaced on a six-fight winning streak. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Life imitates art, or so the saying goes, and were the life of World Series of Fighting middleweight Jesse Taylor to be put on paper, the picture would look a lot like his professional record.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 finalist will collide with Elvis Mutapcic in the World Series of Fighting middleweight tournament semifinals at WSOF 5 on Saturday at the Revel Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The main draw airs live on NBC Sports at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, while the prelims stream for free on Sherdog.com at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.
Ahead of the bout, Taylor remains reflective on the highs and lows of his life and career.
“My life’s a lot like my fight career,” he said. “It’s been up and down, up and down, but things are working out and this is my chance to get on the big stage again. I want to let my actions speak and go out there and win this tournament, but I’m taking things one fight at a time and I have to take care of Elvis first.”
At 26-9, Taylor has won a lot more than he has lost, but his losses have come in clusters. He has lost three out of four fights twice in his career and three out of six during one other stretch. His personal low moments have stood out, as well. “Ultimate Fighter” fans will likely remember the show’s seventh season, during which Taylor earned a coveted spot in the final, only to have that opportunity taken away when Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White was presented with footage of a heavily intoxicated Taylor kicking out car windows and frightening hotel patrons during a celebratory weekend in Las Vegas.
“That was a big letdown, and the whole world saw it, too,” said Taylor, who’s only UFC appearance resulted in a submission loss to C.B. Dollaway in July 2008. “It was tough to deal with.”
Taylor has had other challenges, too, from the birth of his first son -- he was barely an adult himself -- to the breakup of his marriage. Such events have made it difficult to focus purely on fighting, but, the Jesse Taylor of today keeps it all in perspective.
“I hate using excuses for my losses,” he said. “Anyone can do that. Yeah, there were some personal things going on at those times, but it all comes down to those guys being better than me on those nights.”
Public embarrassments and strings of defeats can make or break a fighter, but Taylor has made a conscious decision to learn from his mistakes and missteps.
“Like my fight record, life is a fight, too,” he said. “There’s definitely been low points, but you’ve got to roll with the punches.”
And roll with them he has. The Team Quest mainstay finds himself in the midst of a six-fight winning streak that brought him championships on two continents, as he captured the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship crown in Europe and the K-Oz Entertainment title in Australia. The surge also led the World Series of Fighting to make him part of a four-man tournament to determine its first middleweight champion.
“This is a humongous opportunity for me, and I’ve worked really hard to get back here over the last couple of years,” he said. “Finally, I’ve got another good win streak and a big show that’s giving me an opportunity, but I don’t want to get too big for my britches like I’ve done in the past. I just want to take one fight at a time.”
A two-time All-American and onetime state wrestling champion at Palomar Community College, Taylor does not shy away from the idea of playing to his traditional strengths against Mutapcic, a former Maximum Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder. The Bosnian boasts a 13-2 record, with victories over “The Ultimate Fighter” alums Zak Cummings, Cezar Ferreira, Joseph Henle and Sam Alvey. However, Taylor knows he cannot plan a one-sided attack.
“It’s no surprise what I’m going to do. People know what I’m going to do, but if he can survive that, I get to show off other stuff,” Taylor said. “If he stops my wrestling, I’m ready for a standup battle, as well.”
Taylor does not run from his past. He will carry it into the cage against Mutapcic, not as a crutch but as motivation.
“Experience goes a long way in MMA,” he said. “I’ve always had tons of talent, but it’s been about tapping into it. I’m hard-headed and a hard learner, but I’m finally coming into my own.”
Taylor’s reach extends beyond his own career. He believes it is important to pass on what he has learned to others, including his own children and the younger fighters at Team Quest.
“I teach them to learn from their mistakes and not to give up,” he said. “You’ve got to keep getting up. Fall down seven times, but get up eight. That’s definitely my story.”