As the PFL gets ready to kick off its 2019 campaign, a few among the returning cast are accordingly a little heavier in the pocket. One of those who picked up the cool $1 million prize at the end of the rainbow last year was Louis Taylor, the 39-year-old Chicago veteran whom many didn’t see coming. After navigating a tough semifinals field at middleweight last October — fighting Rex Harris and John Howard on the same night — Taylor smoked Abusupiyan Magomedov in the finals to win the money.
It was a payday like no other he’d ever experienced, and more money than he had accrued in 22 pro fights beforehand. Seven figures for half-a-minute of fighting is a dream ratio. So what did he do with the money? Buy a nice car?
“I wish, I’m hoping I win it this year so I can get something special,” Taylor told MMA Fighting. “I’ll tell you honestly, a million’s not that much money. It’s not chump change, but once you get done paying $400,000 to taxes, $200,000 on your home, you’ve got to pay your manager $100,000, your camp another $50,000, you’re left with, like, one investment. That’s where I’m at now. I’ve got a chance to make one good investment, and I’m not even mentioning retirement and this and that that I need to put away.”
Taylor’s ultimate goal, the one that would deliver him flush in the black, would be to win consecutive championships in the PFL and give himself some padding financially. It won’t be easy. With the addition of the women’s lightweight division to the season, the men’s 185-pound weight class — where Taylor won his championship — was eliminated from the field.
That means he’ll be cutting down to 170 pounds for the first time since high school for his season-opening fight with Chris Curtis on May 9. He’s ultimately uncertain about how the cut will go (or how it will affect him come fight night), but his sense of adventure is right now overriding any unknowns.
“It was something that wasn’t in my control, in my power,” he said. “If I had my choice I’d be at 185. I’ve always believed in a proper weight cut, and keeping a certain amount of fluids on the organs, on the brain, and keeping healthy. So for me, I need to make weight, but I need to do it healthy. I need to do it where I can compete and I’m not putting my organs at risk, doing damage, especially at the age of 40.
“It’s not what I wanted to do, but when the money’s right you make the effort, and I had to get out of the way for the women’s division to come in. Nothing I can do about. Just get out of the way of the Kayla Harrison train and go fight at welterweight.”
Last season was an eye-opener for anybody who wasn’t familiar with Taylor’s body of work. He went 4-0-(1) in 2018, and handled himself with a business-like brand of professionalism in working toward his goal. Yet if you’ve seen Taylor fight over the last seven years, you know that this past season was just a carryover for how he’s been for years. Since 2012, Taylor has only lost a single time, and that was against David Branch at WSOF 34 in 2016 (he lost via rear-naked choke) for the middleweight title.
He’s been sneakily good for a long time, but the million-dollar dangling carrot at the end might have finally got him the credit that he deserves.
“I was surprised coming into the season how many people overlooked me within the media and within the PFL organization,” he says. “I thought it was interesting, because I was the last guy to fight David Branch for the belt. I was like, how did I fall off of everybody’s radar? But you take it in stride. You use it as fuel, and you keep your dreams focused.”
If there’s been any real change to Taylor in the last half-a-decade, it’s his nickname. At one point Taylor went by “Handgunz,” due to the power he was carrying around in his hands. Yet last year, wanted to make a more positive statement, he switched it to “Put the Guns Down.” At first people didn’t understand the sentiment.
“It was ‘Handgunz,’ but I changed it to ‘Put The Guns Down,’ then back to ‘Handgunz,’” he says. “As I changed it back, people started to pay attention to the other name. ‘Put the Guns Down’ was always more of a message from me to my community, to the South Side, where I’m from.”
Taylor says he feels a sense of vindication having emerged as a winner in the PFL’s first full season of action. Coming from a tough place and fighting in just about every promotion other than the UFC has given him a healthy chip on his shoulder. And yet in the end, he didn’t need Zuffa to make a small fortune in fighting. He needed the chance.
And he made the most of it, being one of those guys who does enjoy the PFL set-up.
“I like the season, I like fighting often, and I like knowing when I’m going to fight, and potentially whom I’m going to fight,” he says. “I like that the promoters can’t hand pick [opposition] and keep doing what they’ve been doing, which is pushing me out. They’re always supported the other guy more than me, but the tables have turned. I’m finally on the favorable side of the promoters. I’m just ready. I love PFL and I’m always going to appreciate this format.
“You have guys who are similar to me, whom the UFC ain’t calling. The UFC is signing everybody and their momma from other countries, but they kind of leave us American-born fighters alone. You see Brazilians and Mexicans and Russians and everybody else, but look at their records. I’m like, how do you guys all get to sign just off the strength that the UFC wants to build a more international base? They’re just going to continue to neglect everybody here until they need us, saying OK, we’ll pick you up, here’s a one-fight deal.”
“I know why they’re doing it, but I look at so many good fighters right here that don’t get their shot.”
Taylor is one of those who has succeeded on his own terms, without going the conventional route in MMA. Should he win again in 2019 at welterweight — a feat that even he himself realizes will be extremely tough — maybe he can get that fancy car he wants. It’s something that he believes, even at the age of 40 (his birthday is three days after his fight on May 9), is out there for him. “It feels like a long time coming,” he says. “It’s something I’ve been working at and I’ve paid my dues in this sport, so I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity that the PFL was giving us with that amount of money.
“You know how life gives you these uppercuts and you keep taking them and chugging forward? I had a lot of people saying, ‘when you stopping? —when you doing this?’ Constantly pushing a negative tone about the age, or things not working out, and I’m like — bro, I’m not looking like a guy who should retire when I fight. Even when I fought Branch I was like, why you acting like just because I’m a certain age I should stop?
“I could understand if I was getting knocked out or beat up or something like that, but every fight was close. Every fight is competitive. I’ve only lost to one person who was a champ-champ and probably No. 6 in the world right now, so you’re going to lose sometimes. But it’s the way you lose that signifies if you should stop or not.”