Nestled charmingly on the right side of immature and lovable, 21-year-old Jesse Forbes lived out a prime year of his life in front of our very eyes on The Ultimate Fighter 3 but, at some point, all our rowdy friends settle down.
Most people on this Earth would get overshadowed by the cast of TUF 3. The underrated season was headlined by everybody’s favorite Brit, Michael Bisping, “anybody, any time” Ross Pointon, “Short Fuse” Ed Herman with the chip on his shoulder, and many other characters. One man who had a knack for the spotlight was the youngest fighter in the house.
At the time, Forbes was 2-0 and didn’t necessarily feel that he belonged in the house, but a dare from a buddy led him to trying out and making the cut.
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER RETURNS JUNE 1
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For a 21-year-old fighter, the concept of being paid to be on TV and fight with no other real responsibility in the world was a dream. Forbes fought the boredom that came with it at certain points and lived it as such. The impressionable sparkplug stole his first chunk of screen time by pouncing on another dare and stabbing a hole in Noah Inhofer’s basketball.
After losing to Inhofer in the first round, the promising prospect made his way back to the house and was still just as “early twenties” as he was when he left.
In an unexpected turn of events, Forbes would go on to lose again to Josh Haynes in the second round and then again to Matt Hamill in the Finale. Although he was young and had lost three in a row, Forbes was brought into a season full of veterans for a reason. There was one heck of an upside to his career.
Constant praise of his wrestling prowess echoed, as well as the potential he had. Without ever seeing an extensive losing streak or downward spiral, we never got to see what the UFC had envisioned.
Forbes wouldn’t go on and stretch a career out in the UFC like Herman, Hamill and Bisping. He wouldn’t notch a win in the UFC Octagon, and though his career didn’t end at the wrap of TUF 3, to the casual fan, Jesse Forbes had all but disappeared.
“I was training seven days a week and I did decent in smaller shows, but whenever I got to the bigger platform it never really went my way,” Forbes said. “I had one fight that I was pretty proud of that I lost the split decision. I thought that was pretty bad on the judges’ part. When I fought Nick Catone, I damaged him pretty bad. I could have done more when I watched it, but I just kind of thought I had it in the bag and it didn’t go my way.”
Forbes kept the dream alive for four years after his TUF Finale loss to Matt Hamill. There was a two-fight stint in the UFC followed by two straight regional finishes, but in 2010, Forbes retired. Still well short of his 30th birthday.
“I was living the lifestyle,” Forbes explained. “I had high highs and low lows with no end in sight. I didn’t want to be the age I am now and have nothing to show for a 15, 16-year fight career. Whether I would have been the champ or not, I have no idea. Maybe I would have done really well or broken the top ten or fought for the title, but I think the reality of it was I was still going to enter the workforce one day and I was never going to make enough. Maybe I’m selling myself short, but I was kind of done with this lifestyle.”
Firmly rooted in Forbes’ head the entirety of his career was getting on with the local fire department. Once he was on, he could pick back up and be the original firefighting fighter, despite being two years younger than former heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic.
The fire department came calling and things naturally shifted. The will to pick his fighting career back up as previously planned went forgotten altogether.
Submission grappling began to feed Forbes’ appetite for competition and time with his kids replaced the fulfillment of adding to his record or jumping up the rankings. Now a captain paramedic for the Phoenix Fire Department, Forbes also enjoys a satisfying amount of responsibility that made weight cutting and contract negotiations easy to part with.
At 15-5, not only did Forbes walk away, he peacefully stepped out with no present-day commentary of the sport or digital footprint of any sort. Being recognized on the street is a thing of the past and he’s quite happy with it. Forbes would even refer to himself as a casual fan of present-day MMA. Not because it’s not “his era” but because it’s no longer “his sport.”
“I’m a captain on a fire truck and that’s a pretty big deal when you manage emergencies and people and resources,” Forbes said. “I make a pretty good living for myself, and my wife does too, and the best thing ever is being a dad. I love being a dad; I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for that. I live in a nice house with chickens and goats and I’m in a fantastic place. That show and the experience enabled me to be successful in just about every other facet of my life, so I’m good.”
Even if you lost track of Forbes following the TUF Finale, you watched him rub shoulders with a future champion, enjoy one of the greatest coaching rivalries in TUF history, irritate the absolute hell out of Rory Singer and make friends with a man named “Short Fuse.” At 36 years old, Jesse Forbes doesn’t have a title fight or a ranking but there’s an abundance of fight-related life experience and nobody can take that away.
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