Jesse Taylor is back to seeking redemption.
Taylor told BloodyElbow.com earlier this week that he was released by the UFC last Saturday. He received a release email, plus a second email notifying him he was no longer in the USADA testing pool, that morning.
“I kind of laughed,” Taylor said. “I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ I was giving [the UFC] sh-t, like, ‘Hey, give me a fight, or let me know what’s going on.’ And that’s what I got — an email.”
The UFC did not return a request for comment sent Thursday.
Taylor hasn’t fought since July 2017, when he won The Ultimate Fighter 25: Redemption with a submission of Dhiego Lima in one of MMA’s most feel-good stories of the year. His momentum was derailed when he tested positive for clomiphene in an out-of-competition drug test in September and was suspended for one year.
Taylor’s suspension ended last month.
Taylor said his entire situation with USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, was “bullsh-t.” Taylor claimed he tested positive for a “low level” of clomiphene, an estrogen blocker, so it should have been obvious to USADA that he did not knowingly use the banned substance. He expected a “slap on the wrist” — something along the lines of a six-month suspension — but instead got the maximum sanction.
“They threw the book at me,” Taylor said. “They gave me a year suspension. Once I got that year suspension, I personally thought, ‘Holy sh-t, that’s a big issue.’ I thought that was pretty drastic.”
USADA did not immediately return a request for comment sent Friday.
Taylor said he informed USADA that he believed the positive test was a result of a contaminated product, but ultimately chose not to challenge the one-year suspension due to the cost of lawyers and testing supplements.
“I didn’t want to pay a bunch of money knowing I didn’t do anything,” he said, adding that he would’ve challenged the suspension had it been longer. “So I just sort of took it.”
USADA told MMAFighting.com last year that Taylor did not actually mention that the positive test came from a tainted product. (Taylor, of course, denied that claim.) Had he done so, USADA said, it would have done its best to accommodate him.
For Taylor, 2018 has been a “learning year,” he said. While on suspension, he’s participated in a handful of jiu-jitsu competitions, including EBI 17 earlier this month. Once his USADA suspension came to an end in September, Taylor expected a fight offer right away — and he got one, but it wasn’t exactly what he was looking for.
The UFC asked Taylor to step up on a week’s notice against Ramazan Emeev at UFC Moscow, he said. But the welterweight declined the offer, because he’d been out for over a year and doesn’t have the easiest time cutting down to 170 pounds. Taylor said he wanted to be ready and not look like “a fool” in his return fight.
“I’ve been doing this my whole career,” Taylor said. “I’ve been going over to Russia. I’m the king of short-notice fights.”
Less than a month later, the UFC released him.
“At least tell me six months ago this is what you’re gonna do,” a frustrated Taylor said.
“I think they could’ve done a lot with me. I think I could’ve came back and even made a run for that title.”
Taylor understands why the UFC kept him on its roster throughout his entire suspension, then released him once it ended — but he doesn’t agree with that decision.
“I think they’re making the guys sit out the whole suspension to show, ‘Hey, we’re boss,’” Taylor said. “It’s a power game, I guess, to make you sit out the whole time when they’re going to release you, anyway.
“For them to do this, to actually cut me, I think that’s some Nazi sh-t. I think it’s pretty crazy. They’re crucifying people at the stake that are innocent. And that’s when you gotta speak up, you gotta say, ‘Hey, there’s something wrong here.’”
Including his exhibition wins on TUF 25, Taylor is riding a four-fight winning streak. Considering his recent success, plus his belief that he’s innocent, Taylor was shocked when the UFC released him. He believes his “drastic” — and unfair — suspension was the sole reason he was let go.
“I just feel like they did me dirty,” he said. “They could’ve given me at least a couple fights. Let me prove myself. To not give me a chance after earning it, f-ck.
“I don’t know how many guys were coming off a win and never actually failed a drug test for a fight and were released. … Let me remind you: I passed all those drug tests (on TUF). I’m coming off a win. I’ve done everything the right way my whole career. I worked my ass off to win TUF, to live in that house, win all those fights. I did it the right way. To do this to me now, it kind of fires me up.”
Taylor said he’s able to see the UFC’s side regarding keeping suspended fighters on its roster. If the UFC cut Taylor immediately after USADA suspended him, he could have gone and fought elsewhere. That would have showed that suspensions don’t always stop fighters from competing, even though they should. The UFC wants to legitimize its anti-doping program as much as possible, and letting suspended fighters run free would be a step in the wrong direction in doing so.
That said, Taylor’s stance on his suspension still remains the same: he believes it was unfair because only a small amount of clomiphene was found in his system, plus it was an out-of-competition drug test. Taylor said he’s surprised USADA didn’t recognize that he did not knowingly cheat.
“USADA and UFC, are they not talking?” Taylor asked. “Are they not looking at cases like mine and seeing the facts? ‘Hey, there’s not a steroid here, there’s no fight, and there’s low levels, and he passed the same test a month prior.’
“They said with Jon Jones there was no intentional use. They know when someone’s trying to cheat or when it’s accidental. You can tell by the test. They have the amount in there. They gotta get together and communicate more.”
Taylor still ultimately thinks USADA is good for the sport, because cheaters are getting caught. But he believes the association is approaching anti-doping the wrong way.
“They’re doing it with a Nazi mentality,” he said. “You can’t burn people that are innocent.”
Taylor admitted the time off was a nice break during which he was able to “reevaluate some things,” but he’s more than ready to get back into the cage.
“I’m in my prime years, so I gotta get in there,” he said. “After that July fight, I was ready to go. Then the whole bullsh-t USADA thing came about, and it was a little detour — a little detour for sure.”
Taylor said he is already in talks with multiple promotions. Where he’ll fight next comes down to money, for the most part, because he has a family to feed.
“We’re talking to them all,” Taylor said. “But now, I’m the real money man. The cool thing about this is ‘JT Money’ came to fruition. I got a high price tag now. And I’ve earned it. Wherever I go, they gotta pay me. That’s where I’m gonna go. I’m gonna go where the money’s at.”
His UFC run didn’t end the way he wanted or expected it to, but Taylor is still “super proud” of what he was able to accomplish inside the Octagon — including achieving ultimate redemption last year.
“I’m a positive guy,” he said. “That story (Taylor winning TUF 25) fires me up. They can never take that away from me.”
Taylor’s redemption story started in 2008. He made it to the TUF 7 finals, but after a drunken incident while filming in Las Vegas, he was removed from the final. Months later, after getting on better terms with the UFC brass, he made his UFC debut, but lost and was released. And for the next nine years, Taylor fought in smaller promotions, trying to get back to where he believed he’d always belonged — all the while dealing with personal problems.
Then he did get back there. He returned to the Octagon. And after achieving redemption at TUF 25 Finale, choking out Lima, he failed a drug test and later got released. Ironically, it didn’t work out — again.
After all he’s been through, if there’s any man who can make yet another comeback, who can get redemption yet again, it might just be Jesse Taylor.
“Maybe it’s the story of my life?” Taylor wondered. “I just gotta keep redeeming myself. Here we go: redemption part two.”