It has been more than three years since he last set foot in the cage, but Tait Fletcher still gets paid to risk life and limb for the entertainment of others.

Only now, instead absorbing punches and kicks in the realm of mixed martial arts, Fletcher (Pictured, File Photo) earns his living jumping off buildings onto speeding vehicles. Such is the scene “The Ultimate Fighter 3” veteran described to as one of his duties on the set of the motion picture “The Last Stand,” which is expected to mark action star Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen sometime in 2013.

According to Fletcher, the seeds for his burgeoning career as a stuntman were planted some 12 years ago when he was living in Santa Fe, N.M.

“I worked on a film called ‘Lockdown,’ and it was a blast. It was the most fun I ever had,” Fletcher said. “I got to do a fall from a third tier of a prison in Santa Fe. Up till then, I had just been bouncing in clubs. It was awesome, exhilarating, especially with the cameras on. It’s like a fight, almost; the nerves of getting ready to perform and all that.”

At the time, it did not seem like anything more than a brief fling with Hollywood.

“I never did anything with it because it just seemed unreasonable. It seemed like a fluke that happened in my life,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher continued to compete in grappling tournaments and MMA events afterward, balancing his training between Santa Fe and Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque. Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles, where he famously became the bodyguard to UFC analyst Joe Rogan and earned a spot on the cast of Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” When he returned to New Mexico after his appearance on the reality show, he continued to train under the guidance of Greg Jackson. It was then that his second career really got its start.

“I was at Greg’s every day down there,” Fletcher said. “During that interaction, a film came to Santa Fe when I was in town, and I got asked to do stunt work on it. I’ve been working stunts ever since.”

Fletcher has since landed roles in major films such as “Thor” and “Paul,” as well as unreleased titles such as “The Avengers” and “Red Dawn.” He has also had what he calls “half-acting gigs, half-stunt performing roles” in “Jonah Hex” and “Fright Night.”

Fletcher’s last professional fight came at King of the Cage “Badlands” in 2008, when he suffered a first-round knockout loss to Chad Herrick. His most notable bout among six career fights was a technical knockout defeat at the hands of Scott Smith at WEC 17 in 2005. Still, giving up his professional fighting career was not easy.

“It was a big decision of mine; [for] a lot of people, that’s a scary thing to look at. It’s not like fighters are known for being very mentally stable or really open to a whole bunch of different things,” he said. “They’re fighters -- that’s what they do. I’ve had a lot of different faces in my life.”

When Fletcher weighed the options between two potential careers, he realized that one was reaching its end.

“I just thought about where I was and where I ranked and tried to look at my life and career realistically as a professional athlete -- what it looked like for guys that really ground it out to the end,” he said. “I started weighing all those things: Are you gonna make enough fighting in the next few years to be able to segue slowly into your next thing? My answer at that point in my career was no. There wouldn’t be enough money.”

Even though he no longer actively competes, Fletcher is still involved with MMA. From L.A., he keeps an eye on the day-to-day operations of Undisputed Fitness, his gym in Santa Fe. He also maintains a close relationship with the Jackson’s crew, serving as an analyst for the Internet streaming of the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts Series cards.

For Fletcher, the move out of his comfort zone as a fighter has proven to be successful. He believes taking that chance has given him a prosperous second career.

“You can hide for safety and duck and be cautious,” he said. “And there’s no greatness in that, not ever.”

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