If Jesse Taylor hadn't gotten falling over drunk on national television multiple times, if he hadn't urinated himself with his clothes on while standing in a bedroom with the cameras rolling, if he hadn't kicked the window out of a limousine while in a drunken stupor, he'd be another ambitious young fighter looking to prove he belongs among the elite in mixed martial arts.
But Taylor has become notorious for his antics during and slightly after filming of Season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter, so much so that it overshadows his vast physical skills.
And while his behavior cost him a chance to earn the UFC contract that comes with winning the show, he'll be right where he would have been a month ago should he defeat C.B. Dollaway on Saturday at The Pearl at the Palms in Las Vegas on an Ultimate Fight Night card on Spike TV.
But Taylor, who said he has gone to several Alcoholics Anonymous classes to "see what they are about," concedes that things won't be the same for him for a while no matter what he does.
"I'm always going to be the guy who got drunk and got kicked off the show to some people," Taylor said. "I know there are a lot of people who will look at me and they won't look to see what kind of a fighter I am or how hard I've worked. They're only going to think of what happened on the show."
Taylor's buffoonery earlier this year during the taping of the reality series was only the worst example of numerous episodes of out-of-control behavior that needed to be stopped.
UFC president Dana White said that beginning with Season 8, which recently concluded filming and which will begin airing in September, fighters are going to be required to pay for damage they do to the house where they live during filming.
White said a staircase and its banister that were damaged during Season 7 cost nearly $70,000 to repair.
Taylor was involved in nearly all of the most outrageous moments that were broadcast during Season 7. He said many of the tender moments that were filmed, such as him expressing concern for his son, wound up being edited out and not broadcast.
Regardless, Taylor concedes that he'll be held to a higher standard than the average fighter, perhaps for the remainder of his career, because of what happened. He says that's fine with him, because all he wanted was a chance to prove himself.
"I want to be a fighter more than anything," said Taylor, who gave every indication during the series that he has the tools to eventually become a factor in the UFC's 185-pound division.
He's strong, he's athletic, he's fearless and he's instinctive. He defeated Nick Rossborough, Mike Dolce and Tim Credeur to advance to a spot in the TUF finale June 21 against Amir Sadollah.
White, though, booted him off the series after he raised havoc at both Caesars Palace and Palace Station casinos in Las Vegas, where he kicked out the window of a limousine, terrorized several women and challenged the authority of a security guard.
In what Spike TV billed as "the most shocking episode ever," a teary-eyed Taylor simply accepted White's decision to dump him liked a whipped puppy without ever trying to plead for a second chance.
"I was so shocked at the time when it happened, I couldn't believe it," Taylor said. "If you looked at my face and saw my expression, it was like, 'What? Are you kidding me?' I really couldn't believe what I was hearing."
Taylor arguably gained more notoriety for being booted off than Sadollah did for running the table against a roster of the house's toughest fighters.
Saturday's bout against Dollaway could be Taylor's reintroduction to the MMA world and a reminder to those, including White, of how good he can be.
He's training at Team Quest, where he says he's worked harder than he ever has, and is determined to prove his worth.
"Controversy and adversity can bring out the best in a person or it can bring out the worst," Taylor said. "I'm very motivated. I know there are haters out there. There are people who think I should have been banned forever, even though when you really think about it, it's not like I committed a series of crimes or anything. What I did was wrong, and it was stupid, but how many people can say they never did anything wrong or stupid when they were young?
"I have a lot to prove about myself as a fighter. I want to go out there and beat C.B. to make a point to people, to prove the kind of fighter I am and I can be."
Taylor has the physical ability to be a star. But whether he ever becomes a star will have less with how he handles himself in the cage and more about how he comports himself outside of it.
He'll forever be remembered as the crazy drunk guy to some.
That's the price he has to pay for his shortsightedness and failing to realize the implications of his actions.
His goal, though, is to do enough in the cage to make people think of him the way they do the guy who rules the 185-pound class and will headline Saturday's card, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
"I'm so thankful to Dana White for this second chance and I feel like I have to repay him by coming up with a great performance," Taylor said. "But it's not a one time thing. I know they're counting on me to do it over and over. And I will. All I'm focused on is fighting and doing the right thing. That other stuff is in my past and all I can do to prove it is to get myself into great shape, to come out and fight hard and to win each time they put me out there. That's all there is to it."
- Jesse Taylor
- Dana White