In one of those moments any good movie director would shoot in slow-motion, Paul Taylor saw the flying knee screaming towards his face but – at the last micro-second - managed to intercept the blow. The British middleweight absorbed the full force of the explosive strike on his forearm…
Such was the impact of opponent Zelg Galesic’s knee that Taylor’s humerus (major forearm bone) was broken so badly he would later require surgery.
When two-time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia had his forearm snapped by Frank Mir back in 2004, the referee in charge stopped the fight immediately. However, on April 10, 2005 in the British port town of Bristol, the official in charge of Taylor’s fight didn’t notice that one of the combatants was severely injured.
And Taylor - who fights Edilberto Crocota at UFC 70 on April 21 - sure wasn’t going to mention it…
“I knew my arm was messed up pretty badly right away,” Taylor said. “But I didn’t let on. I even didn’t tell my trainer, Jon Roberts, because I knew he’d have pulled me out of the fight if he thought I was going to try and win with a broken arm. I just continued fighting for the remainder of the second round with the arm broke, kept quiet about it in the corner between rounds, and then came out for the third determined to pay the guy back for the injury.”
Talk about a will to win: incredibly, not only did the Walsall (English midlands) based fighter finish the fight in the third, he did so with strikes using the same arm which had been shattered just minutes before.
“After the adrenaline wore off the arm did hurt quite a bit,” the Brit deadpanned. “I had an operation and they had steel plates put in and now I’ve got a nice scar on my arm. “
Taylor’s victory is all the more impressive when you consider that it was the only loss of Galesic’s career and that the Croatian subsequently embarked on a five fight rampage through the European ranks which includes a first round KO of former UFC fighter Mark Weir.
Yet for Taylor, 7-1 (with one ‘no contest’) in his mixed martial arts career, it was just another win en route to reaching the pinnacle of mixed martial arts: the UFC.
“Getting to the UFC was my long-term goal when I started training MMA six years ago. It is the top of the mountain in mixed martial arts and it will be an honour to fight on a UFC card, especially on such a huge card in an arena like the MEN Arena in Manchester.”
Much of the huge throng of British UFC fans’ attention will be on charismatic Ultimate Fighter III winner Michael Bisping, who has appeared in a blizzard of national newspaper and magazine articles ahead of the UFC’s first UK show in five years.
However, Taylor is also hoping to give the home fans something to cheer about himself.
He said, “Michael Bisping is a very good fighter and a good personality, people like him and respect him and I think he’s doing an amazing job of pushing British MMA forward. But obviously, I want to establish myself in my own right and not be known as one of the British guys who fights on UK cards alongside Michael Bisping.
“I’ve every confidence I can make a name for myself off my own back in the UFC and not need to ride anyone’s coat-tails.”
Like Bisping, Taylor is predominantly a striker who has an outstanding pedigree in kickboxing (and to a lesser extent, boxing).
By the age of 21, the hard-hitting Taylor had a trophy case full of kickboxing belts and baubles. In 2001 he traveled to South Africa to fight a rival world champion who boasted a 13-0 (13 KOs) record and was said to be the best in the world. Taylor returned to England with an easy points decision and yet another title belt, but his ambitions in the world of kickboxing had been extinguished.
“I just felt it was time for a new challenge,” Taylor recalls. “In kickboxing, there’s so many world titles and organisations you never really know if you are the best in the world. It was frustrating to me as a fighter that I’d never get the chance to prove to everyone that I was the very best in the world. That, and the fact you can’t really make a living from kickboxing, made my mind up to move to MMA.”
With only one loss on his five year MMA career, Taylor, 27, believes he is ready to step onto the UFC proving ground.
“This UFC chance had been in the pipeline for a while but I finally got the official word two, three months ago,” he said. “I’ve had lots of big promises in my career before only to be disappointed so I didn’t believe it until I saw the contract. It was a really exciting thing to finally be confirmed as fighting on the UFC show and I just couldn’t wait to get to the gym to start preparing for it.”
Taylor’s opponent on April 21 at UFC 70: Nations Collide, Brazilian based Crocota, is the undefeated training partner of UFC Middleweight king Anderson Silva.
It is a tough fight on paper, but after half a decade on the British small hall circuit, Taylor is relishing a big challenge on an even bigger stage.
“I’ve watched tapes of him and Crocota’s more of a slugger than a striker,” ‘Relentless‘ said. “He likes to brawl by the looks of it and doesn’t always look for the takedown like some BJJ guys do. I can see he’s got some good hands and he looks very strong, physically.
“Overall, he’s an aggressive, well-rounded fighter who is gonna come forward and fight. I couldn’t have asked the UFC for a more credible or better opponent to showcase myself in my first fight in the Octagon.
“Normally I’m just as happy on the ground, but this time I want to put a show on for the big British crowd and obviously impress the UFC. So I am very glad I didn’t get matched with a pure grappler or someone who would make for more of a chess match type of fight.”
After courageously winning a fight while battling with a snapped forearm, Taylor is hoping that UFC 70 is the real “big break” of his career.
“I hope Bisping gets an amazing win on the night,” Taylor said. “I’m behind all the British boys – but this is the biggest chance of my career and I’m determined that when the fans leave the MEN Arena they are going to be talking about me as well as Michael.”