Louis Taylor is in it for the money. However, he believes being the Professional Fighters League Season 1 middleweight champion can offer more than just monetary gains. It can offer a chance to bring change to his community in a very meaningful way.
“Anything less than the finals is a disappointment,” Taylor told Sherdog.com. It is a goal he and every other fighter in the PFL playoffs share. They all hope to become millionaires on Dec. 31. However, Taylor views being a millionaire not only in terms of his bank account, but as a gateway to greater humanitarian pursuits in his hometown of Chicago.
“You can’t do outreach without money. No one respects you [without money],” Taylor says. “I don’t care how nice of a person you are, and that goes tenfold in the hood.”
The dire problem of gun violence in Chicago since 2012 has created headlines and even talking points for President Donald Trump during his run for office. The city saw record highs in casualties from gun violence in 2016 and 2017, and 1,433 people were victims of gunshot wounds as of July of this year. Taylor has had many firsthand encounters with shootings throughout his life -- more times than he can count -- growing up on the south side of Chicago. As an adult, the man who once went by the nickname "Handgunz" but now calls himself "Put The Guns Down" has separated himself from that life, but still it often finds a way to reach out and touch him.
“There’s not a murder that goes down in Chicago that I don’t know somebody that knew that person, or I probably know that person myself,” Taylor says.
On Saturday night at PFL 10, Taylor will compete on his biggest stage yet, as he takes part in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. The purses he could earn and the spotlight he could receive en route to the finals would offer unique opportunities, which he hopes to parlay into something that can benefit his city and the folks in it.
“I’m hoping to use anything I can get from PFL, or anything going forward to help the community do better,” Taylor says. “I just want to continue to grow as a man, and as a human, so that I can come back home, do some humanitarian work and affect more kids [and] teenagers’ lives.”
To be able to effect change in the ways he aspires, the 39-year-old will first have to win two fights in one night at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, DC. In the quarterfinals Taylor will face Rex Harris. The World Class Boxing product enters the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, following a 1-1 run during the season. Considering Taylor’s No. 2 seed and three-fight winning streak, he is sure to be a heavy favorite, yet he is not overlooking Harris one bit, and sees the 35-year-old as a legit threat.
“[Rex is] a dangerous opponent, because he is somebody that doesn’t go away. He might not wow people and put [opponents] away, but he’s always in the fight,” Taylor said.
The Chicago Fight Team combatant takes his underdog opponent seriously because Taylor has often been viewed as the lesser talent in many of his own bouts. “Even now, people really didn’t consider that I exist,” Taylor says. “I had a couple of guys come up to me after I won my last [fight] and they said, ‘I keep betting against you and [continue to] prove me wrong.’”
Since 2013, Taylor has lost only once over his nine fights. That defeat came in a 2016 World Series of Fighting middleweight title bout against two-division champion David Branch. It is a fight Taylor feels was highly competitive, as he put the champion in some difficult positions several times. Yet he still didn’t earn the respect he feels he deserves from the performance.
“When you lose against someone people expected you to lose against, they discredit you,” Taylor says. Although he appreciates his supporters, the naysayers feed his fire to succeed just as much. “I use the negative and the positive. I’m not going to worry about being anybody’s favorite. I’m not going to worry about having any pressure. I’m just going to go out there and do it for myself and my family.”
As an often-underestimated competitor, he won’t make the same mistake with Harris at PFL 10. That doesn’t mean he isn’t confident about his chances for victory. “I’m not going to put anything past Rex. With that being said, I’m going to win,” Taylor proclaimed.
Winning is something he has done often fighting for the PFL, and its precursor WSOF. However, his stay in the PFL has been much more enjoyable than in WSOF, where at times he felt unwelcome. “World Series of Fighting--I don’t even know if they wanted to have me under contract. They never really used me,” Taylor said. After signing with the company, he sat on the sidelines for nearly two years waiting for a chance to fight.
PFL has been a different experience altogether. “You still have the Ray Sefos and certain staff members, but beyond that it’s an entirely new company,” Taylor says. The rebranded league and its new format have kept him active, which he appreciates after a 2017 where he entered the cage only once. “I’m a happy man just to be active,” he says. “I’m getting too old to be sitting around waiting for someone to call my phone. I just want to actively chase my dream and try to achieve that while I still have a fighting chance.”
Now, just a year shy of turning 40, his final goal in the sport is to be called a PFL season champion, be it this season or next. “I’m going to stay until I get this job done. If it takes this year, or if it takes next year, I’m going to make it happen. I’m going to be the PFL champ of 2018 or 2019,” Taylor said.
Taylor will be happy with whatever purse he earns in the playoffs, since it will be the biggest of his career. However, he prefers the cash that comes with being in the finals, because just like anyone else, he has bills to pay. “Honestly, anything less than $250,000 wouldn’t do much, but I’ll be happy with it,” he says. “I’m more than happy to make $50,000 [paid to quarterfinalists who don’t advance]. I’m more than happy to make $100,000 [paid to semifinalists who don’t advance]. But, I need that $250,000. I need to pay off the house.”