Brian Stann: As You Were

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UFC middleweight Brian Stann called it a career on Thursday, announcing his retirement on the MMA Hour. The former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion and perennial fan favorite leaves the cage with a career record of 12-6, including nine wins by (T)KO. The heavy-handed Marine won’t be fading quietly into the night. He’s already got his thumbs in a lot of pies, acting as a commentator for UFC broadcasts on Fox (and ACC football games this fall), CEO of Hire Heroes, and spokesperson for Ranger Up.

In his short career, the 32-year-old made an indelible impression on the MMA community—both in and out of the cage. Here are a few of our favorite Stann moments from the FIGHT! family.

image descJim Casey, FIGHT!’s Managing Editor
It’s risky business when we commit to putting a fighter on the cover. Time, resources, and money are at stake, but mainly it’s a huge pain in the ass to schedule everything, from the photo shoot to interviews to writing the article.

In May 2011, we decided to put Brian Stann on the patriotic July 2011 cover. The problem: he was fighting Jorge Santiago on May 28 at UFC 130. Nevertheless, we put all our eggs in Stann’s basket, completing the photo shoot before the fight and scheduling everything else for post-fight. As long as he won and everything was completed by June 7, we could make our July print date.

On fight night, I was sitting in press row at the MGM Grand, desperately needing a whiskey to calm my nerves. The Stann vs. Santiago fight opened the pay-per-view portion of the card, so I was especially jacked after hearing the UFC montage that is set to The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” (the best part of every live UFC card).

After an entertaining first round, Stann floored Santiago in the second with a vicious overhand right, following it up with a flurry of right hands that put an end to the Fight of the Night. Our cover subject came through in true Marine-like fashion. I stood and cheered like Stann had won the title. All was good in life.

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Paul Thatcher, FIGHT!’s Photographer
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Brian on several occasions and see how he interacts around other people. With Brian, what you see is what you get. He’s a great person to everyone he meets. You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. On several occasions, I’ve see Brian be just as nice to those who can do nothing for him, as to those who can.

Although it may not have been his favorite fight, his epic battle against Wanderlei Silva is one of my favorites. He always went to war in the cage, but he also knew when to stop, like he did when he fought Alessio Sakara. For someone who has accomplished so much and received military praises of the highest order, he carries himself with great humility—he’s an example for us all.

E. Spencer Kyte, FIGHT!’s Canadian Guy
In April 2012, Brian Stann took on Alessio Sakara in the co-main event of the UFC’s first show in Stockholm, Sweden. Early in the first round, Stann got the fight to the canvas and started to unleash heavy strikes from inside Sakara’s guard. You could see the shots were landing and doing damage, and it was clear that the end was near. Another punch followed, and Sakara was out, but before the referee could rush in to stop the contest, Stann looked up toward the official as if to say, “This guy is done,” ending the onslaught without prompting. He simply knew Sakara had had enough, and that no more punches needed to be thrown.

While some fighters will punch through to the end or hold onto a submission until the referee pulls them off—even if their opponent is tapping—Stann holstering his hands showed his character, and it’s that character, as much as anything else, that has endeared him to fans.

RJ Clifford, FIGHT!’s Loudmouth
Brian Stann played college football, graduated from Annapolis, served our country overseas, married an NFL cheerleader, became a family man, and, oh yeah, he was a hell of a fun fighter to watch. There’s a lot of reasons to miss “The All-American,” and not just because he is MMA’s version of GI Joe.

image descHis reputation kept Michael Bisping AND Chael Sonnen from talking pre-fight trash—a feat deserving of a UFC Hall of Fame plaque on its own. He was fearless in the cage, often covered in blood. And yet, you still wanted him to date your sister because you knew he would show up at the front door, clad in a suit and tie, with a bouquet of roses for your mom and a war story for you at the bar later.

We watched him grow. His first televised fight came at WEC 28, just his fourth fight as a professional. Stann gave MMA fans a rare glimpse into the evolution of a top fighter, from beginning to end. We watched the one-trick pony one-two punch his way to a WEC Light Heavyweight Championship. Later, he turned into a full-fledged martial artist in the UFC.

He walked away with a level of grace that’s tough to duplicate. A loss in a Fight of the Year candidate against Wanderlei Silva may have left a bitter taste in his mouth, but he went out guns blazing. Rarely do stories involving military service or combat sports come with a happy ending. His story is one of violence—some controlled with a referee and four-ounce gloves, some with an M-16 in a desert a hemisphere away. His story isn’t perfect, but it ended with the same grace he carried himself with throughout his MMA career. It’s a story with a lesson aspiring fighters should heed.

Duane Finley, FIGHT!’s Alright Guy

Where most fighters are remembered best for their highest profile victories, I believe the very essence of Brian Stann was on display during his defeat to Wanderlei Silva at UFC on Fuel TV 8. The Silver Star recipient dove headlong into the fray against one of the most feared strikers to ever compete in the sport—in Japan no less, a country where the former Pride Champion is heralded as a legend.

The bout came at an interesting time in the careers of both men. Stann was fading from the middleweight contender picture after dropping two of his last three showings, and Silva was looking to keep the pulse of his storied career alive. Where Stann was once a staple in the conversation of potential title contenders at 185-pounds, his loss to Michael Bisping at UFC 152 put those particular hopes on ice.

Coming into the bout with Silva, the former Marine understood what was on the line and knew that victory was a necessity for him to remain on the radar. As the younger, stronger fighter with an improved offensive wrestling game, Stann could have taken a technical approach against Silva by trying to put the “Axe Murderer” on the mat and playing the clock for three rounds.

While this approach is a common tactic used by fighters who are desperate for a win, it is simply not the way Stann does business. Shortly after the cage door closed, both fighters engaged in a heated firefight for the ages, as each man visited the deck on multiple occasions during the first round. The action eventually took a turn for the worse for Stann in the second round, and a heavy hook from Silva put him on the canvas for good.

In the aftermath of the loss, the Stann may have lamented his approach to the fight, but it doesn’t take anything away from what he gave inside the cage in Japan. Stann could have stalled, postured, and avoided Silva at all cost, but that wasn’t the test Stann was looking for. He threw caution to the wind and decided to challenge one of the most revered power punchers to ever strap on the gloves…in the center of the cage…in the hostile territory of the storied Saitama Super Arena.

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