Professional Fighters League middleweight champion Louis Taylor achieved his objective in the league’s first season. Boosted by the highest level of financial security he has ever had, his 2019 plans consist of fighting for more money in Season 2 and starting down a new path as an activist at home in Chicago, Illinois.
“Once you deposit [the checks], it’s like breaking a $100. Once you break it you know you’re going to spend it,” Taylor told Sherdog.com. While he hasn’t gotten around to cashing his checks from the PFL yet, Taylor is grateful for the new monetary comfort he has. Going into the season, his goal wasn’t to win the million-dollar cash prize. It was just to make sure he made it to the finals and earned at least $200,000.
“I was happy with that,” Taylor said. “I didn’t want to look past the $200,000 [runner-up prize amount] and just look at the $1 million. I wanted to see what I could do with $200,000, and if I had more to play with then I would accept it. Winning [the championship], I could take it or leave. Of course, I wanted to take it.”
Taylor, 39, wanted to pay off off as much of his mortgage as he could. Therefore, he took a realistic approach when setting his goals for the season. The closest he had ever come to a major championship was a failed bid for the World Series of Fighting middleweight title, against David Branch on New Year’s Eve 2016. Nor had he ever come close to earning this much money during the previous 11 years of his mixed martial arts career.
“$200,000 would have put a big dent in our mortgage,” Taylor said. “And I was more than happy with that. The million helps me in getting a little bit of retirement cushion. It gives me some investment options. I am happy to be in the situation I’m in and not necessarily fight, but I’m ready to fight.”
During his hiatus from the sport, Taylor has been able to revel in his recent success. Along with a plethora of interviews and guest spots, he has also noticed an uptick in notoriety within the industry. Proof of this came while cornering Belal Muhammad during fight week for UFC Fight Night 143.
“I went, and [the recognition] was on a whole new level,” Taylor said. “I had no clue that so many people had even saw the fight and knew who I was. From the bottom of their heart, [they were] taking the time to acknowledge me, and those are dope moments.”
The moments of congratulation included a private chat with Ultimate Fighting Championship two-division champion Daniel Cormier, as well as a funny moment where UFC lightweight kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov asked for a loan. Taylor laughed when remembering the moment. “Like, whoa, Khabib just asked to borrow some money,” Taylor said.
Along with handshakes and congratulatory pats on the back, fighters also intimated to Taylor their interest in joining the league one day, perceiving it as an easy route to big paydays. However, he informed them that winning a PFL title is no simple task.
“It’s not an easy journey,” Taylor said. “A lot of people think, ‘I’m going to go over there and walk through [all opponents].’ It is a very difficult year. It’s five fights in six months. You have to remain injury-free [and] you have to stay in camp the whole time. It’s a real battle to stay focused.”
Next season is set to start in May. However, the Chicago Fight Team member has concerns over the division he reigned over even existing in 2019. “I have heard rumblings of them actually canceling my weight class. That leaves me kind of up in the air on what’s going to happen and when I should be prepared,” says Taylor.
The league has sent him his official contract for the new season, which gives him a level of job security, but the rumors make him wonder if the new pact will include a change in division. “Yes, I can go up to 205. Yes, I can potentially make 170, but at my age I don’t think that’s something I really want to do. It puts me in a bind. I’m a natural ’85 pounder,” the Season 1 champion says.
Along with his division being endangered, the Bellator MMA and Strikeforce veteran will lose a key supporter from the league’s management structure as league president Carlos Silva has left the organization to take on the role of CEO for World Team Tennis.
“Everybody has their own little niche, of the type of fighter they prefer. And I don’t really fit anybody’s mold, but I bring the heat. And that’s something Carlos acknowledged a long time ago that I appreciated,” Taylor said. “Even though he wasn’t a fighter, he knew what he was talking about.” He says he will miss the rapport Silva had with him, and many other fighters, despite not having a fighting background himself.
With his fighting career on hold, Taylor is pursuing new goals he has long had in mind. In October, Taylor told Sherdog, “I’m hoping to use anything I can get from PFL, or anything going forward to help the community do better. 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.” The time to affect lives has come, as Taylor has the wheels in motion to use his championship fame and wealth to give back to his hometown of Chicago, a city that has made headlines in recent years for gun violence that has reached epidemic levels.
The man once known as “Put the Guns Down,” has now turned the moniker into an actual corporation: Put the Guns Down, LLC will be the official source for his activist work to, in his words, “Take the stage that I have and use it to better myself, to better my community and those who believe in the message I’m trying to share.” He also wants to be an example and a role model for young Black Americans in the city, an issue he went into great depth on, referencing former multi-division boxing champion Adrien Broner as the antithesis of what he plans to represent in the New Year. Broner has long been known for his brash personality, and made negative headlines in the lead-up to his recent fight with Manny Pacquiao for some racist remarks and for repeated claims that he was fighting “for the hood,” and that the hood was behind him. Those antics have clearly made an impression on Taylor.
“Now, as I make this 2019 run in PFL, I think there will be a lot more support,” Taylor said. “A lot more eyes, and I think Chicago will stand behind me as one of their own. Especially, when they see the difference between me, and people who they already support. Say like an Adrien Broner. Clowns like Adrien Broner; you let these people represent us. These are the heroes for the younger generation and we don’t need that. We have an uphill battle already. When you say you’re doing it for the hood [it should] mean uplifting yourself. Getting yourself out of the hood [and] giving the hood something to be proud of. Not another thug on the screen.”
Despite his age, Taylor believes he has several competitive years left in his career, which means that living up to the commitments of an activist and fighter could be difficult: “It’s going to be a balancing act, because I don’t want to sidetrack myself too much from going to secure another bag [of money] in 2019.”