Sometimes people get the chance to make themselves great. And sometimes those same people blow that big opportunity.

Jesse Taylor was one of those people.

It wasn’t that long ago that the San Diego resident was a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter and well on his way to competing on the show’s finale for the six-figure contract and a spot in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Unfortunately, after an incident that included the damaging of property while being inebriated, Taylor was let go from the show. He got a brief chance to fight in the UFC thereafter, but lost to C.B. Dollaway via submission at UFC Fight Night 14 and was ultimately let go from the UFC.

Three years later, Taylor still competes and has been paying his dues in the smaller promotion circuit. During that time, the fighter out of Team Quest has maintained an 18-3 record and taken out such notables as Drew Fickett, Chris Camozzi, Tom “Kong” Watson, and Denis Kang.

Taylor’s most recent success includes a five-fight win streak. The fighter attributes the current run to finally getting his head on straight and taking the time to discover meditation as a key to his relaxation and refocus.

“I got into it about a year ago,” Taylor told about his meditation practices. “It just helps me balance my life, especially before fights. So much is going on in your head and I like doing it right before. It helps me relax.”

So now, while meditating and centering his inner self, Taylor prepares for what he described as the “biggest fight” of his career in a scheduled match-up with Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard, which takes place at Australian Fighting Championships 2 on Saturday night.

Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard

Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard

Lombard is widely considered one of the world’s best middleweights outside of the UFC. With a record of 29-2-1, Lombard hasn’t seen the losing side of a fight in nearly five years and leaves little doubt to his destructive repertoire. Emulating such a devastating opponent in training camp is tricky, but Taylor feels he’s found someone who most closely mirrors “Lightning.”

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou plays the role of Hector Lombard at Team Quest.

With Sokoudjou helping him prepare for AFC 2, Taylor sees himself has having the tools to figure out the Lombard enigma, and anticipates surprising spectators with a stunning win in the land down under. In fact, Taylor proclaims Sokoudjou to be a bigger, stronger version of the Bellator middleweight champ.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Thierry Sokoudjou. He’s kind of like a bigger, stronger version of Hector,” he said.

“Thierry comes from a judo background, like Hector. He’s actually a pretty good wrestler, as well.

“Thierry is a lot like Hector; he punches and kicks super hard.”

The hours count down to Taylor’s date with Lombard in Australia and with each passing moment, the fighter grows even more excited about the match-up. As tough a fight as it is, preparing for the bout comes across as much easier than his fights in years past due to the focus and relaxation Taylor has gained from discovering meditation.

Through this meditative approach, Taylor says he finally got this whole mixed martial arts thing down pretty well, which is fitting, since MMA is more of a mental game for him. Through his own admission, Taylor has been his own worst enemy and has no one else to blame for putting himself in bad positions, like the one that saw him booted from The Ultimate Fighter. Luckily, he’s seen the error of his ways and wants his current win-streak to help carry him back to the big show.

With a win over Lombard, the statement will be louder than ever when asking to come back to the UFC. Taylor hopes the Las Vegas-based company’s bosses take notice and give him a call when he’s done in Australia.

“If I do well in this upcoming fight, I think a fair deal should be made for me,” he said. “I respect Dana, I respect the Fertittas, and I just hope the respect is mutual.

“I’ve been down and out. Now, I’m back again.”

Follow @Erik_Fontanez on Twitter or e-mail Erik Fontanez.
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