Jesse Taylor’s toughest fights have always been with himself. About four years ago, the Ultimate Fighter and Strikeforce veteran was evicted from his home and ended up homeless for a few weeks.
“I had to stay on the beach [in San Diegp],” Taylor told MMA Fighting at a TUF 25 media day earlier this year. “I ended up getting bug bites all over my body.”
Taylor says he has turned things around since then. In his constant struggle with alcohol issues, he hasn’t had a drink in six months, he said. Taylor has a steady girlfriend and is anchored by two children.
That time a few years ago was a particularly dark one, though.
“The hardest thing was having kids and having to deal with that,” Taylor said. “Not telling them. But I battled back. As much as I’ve had some bad breaks, I’ve gotten some lucky breaks. I definitely have a guardian angel that watches out for me. And I think there’s no more symbolic way than fighting. It’ll always be an uphill battle for me, but you can’t get rid of me. I’m like a ring worm. I linger in your system and pop up when you least expect it. They’ve been trying to get rid of me for years and they can’t. I’m still here.”
Taylor, 34, will be back on your television screen beginning Wednesday night — back on the show that made him an infamous name in mixed martial arts. Nine years after his first run on the show (the seventh season) Taylor is a castmate on The Ultimate Fighter 25: Redemption on FS1.
After running through the tournament on TUF 7, Taylor was yanked from the finals by UFC president Dana White for kicking out a window in a limo and harassing women in a casino in a drunken rampage.
“I’ve definitely grown up since then,” Taylor said. “I’m kind of goofy by nature. Put a smile on people’s faces, that’s just who I am. But I definitely learned from that. Fighting wise, I wasn’t too ashamed of it. But some of the antics I did, I was like, ‘Ooh, JT, what are you doing?’ But that’s what happens when you give a monkey alcohol, you know?”
Among a host of talented fighters, including former TUF winners Eddie Gordon and Joe Stevenson, Taylor will be a major curiosity. So will Julian Lane, who is best known for his TUF 16 drunken antics, culminating with one of the most iconic — and ridiculous — lines in the history of the show: “Let me bang, bro!”
Lane, 29, said he watched that episode of the show when it aired for the first time in 2012 and had no idea what transpired. He doesn’t remember anything about that drunken night in the TUF house other than what he’s seen on TV. Lane has not watched it since, he said.
“I don’t like to see the way I acted,” he said. “When I watched it, I was watching it for the first time like everybody else. I didn’t know what happened, either. I blacked out, I was throwing up. I was like, ‘Oh, no.’”
Taylor said he bought TUF 7 on DVD at Best Buy and gave it a watch. It was an odd experience.
“Since [TUF 7], I definitely don’t drink around cameras, I’ll tell you that,” Taylor said. “If I do drink, it’s away from everything. Very incognito. But it’s very few and far between these days.”
Taylor (30-16) was brought back to the UFC by White, but lost to C.B. Dollaway in July 2008. He never got another shot, despite a solid run on the regional scene and in such organizations as Strikeforce, Dream and World Series of Fighting. Taylor, a longtime Team Quest fighter, has competed all over the world, from Australia to Russia to Panama to Argentina. He even has a recent win over UFC veteran Seth Baczynski, who is also on TUF 25.
Lane (11-7) never got an official UFC fight after falling in the opening round of TUF 16 to Bristol Marunde. Lane has bounced around the regional scene, most recently winning two of his last three fights. The Ohio native is particularly proud of how hard he’s worked on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu with coach Dante Rivera, who coincidentally lost to Taylor on TUF 7. Lane said he’s working on his purple belt.
“After that show, I was a little bit down and depressed,” Lane said. “I just had to learn how to come back. Anybody can keep winning, but to lose and try to fight back to get into the UFC, that’s what really shows who you are.”
Lane said a day rarely goes by when someone does not send him a “let me bang, bro” tweet. He has a hard time feeling regret about uttering that line, since it has given him notability, for better or worse.
“It’s nothing I can change,” Lane said. “It’s something I have no control over. I can’t change it. I just have to live with it and make the best of it. Hey, whatever. It’s kept my name alive. If you don’t know me by fighting, you know that dude with the red mohawk that shouted ‘Let me bang, bro!’ I wouldn't say it gets old. People tweet it to me, I’ll retweet it, favorite it, whatever. That’s what they know me for, man.
“I’ve got fans. I got a lot of haters, too. But as long as they keep playing that ‘bang, bro,’ it just keeps my name alive, man.”
After their Ultimate Fighter runs, Taylor and Lane said they had a similar experience: They had no issues getting fights. Many people wanted to fight them.
“What happened is it labeled me this infamous bad boy and everyone wanted a piece of me,” Taylor said “Everyone wanted to fight me. So, I traveled the whole world.”
Added Lane: “Everybody wanted to fight that douchebag with the red mohawk.”
Lane said he saw a counselor about six months ago and it changed his life for the better. Now, rather than getting down on all the bad things that has occurred in his life, he focuses on the good he has done, especially his three little girls. “Nitrane” is now looking to prove himself as a UFC-worthy athlete.
Taylor’s goals are a bit loftier. He truly believes he can make a run in the welterweight division, one many thought the talented fighter could have pulled off nine years ago.
“You have no choice but to grow,” Taylor said. “It’s been a hell of a ride, I’ll tell you what. It’s been a crazy ass journey. I’m just grateful for it all. As much as it sucked, what happened in season seven, it’s a blessing in disguise. Because now I have this awesome opportunity and I stuck with it. And a lot of other guys have fallen off.
“I just want to show the world. I think that’s the whole thing, to inspire people and have one of the best comeback stories there is. I’ve been down and out. I’ve been on the street. But I battled back, man. I battled back and now I’m here.”