In January of 2006, less than a year after Operation Matador pitted 42 marines in a 360-degree firefight, a 25-year old Marine Captain stepped in to his first professional MMA match. Three-minutes and fourteen-seconds, later, that Marine had his first MMA victory. The next five fights held the same result. 6-0 in his first six, all by (T)KO. Now, that same Marine, and Silver Star recipient, has stepped down as a fighter to preserve his health, explore new and continuing ventures, and give back to those in his life who mean the most to him.
That Marine is fan favorite, former WEC champion and UFC fighter, Brian Stann who retired today with a 12-6 MMA record at 32-years of age. Stann cited medical concerns as his primary reasoning as he is known to go to war in the Octagon as he displayed, most notably, against Chris Leben at UFC 125 and against former Pride middleweight champion, Wanderlei Silva back in March of this year, his final fight. Stann is preparing to raise a third child soon, which stands as a measuring stick to how far he is willing to go in a sport that can swiftly deteriorate health.
Now, this may not be the only article out there that commends Stann for a fan-friendly career and distinguished service in the military, but still, not enough good can come from a conversation discussing the merits that this man deserves.
I met Stann back in 2011 at a signing in his hometown of Scranton, PA, just a stone’s throw from my own. I arrived, eager to meet Stann and hear anything I could from a fighter near the top of the middleweight division, coming off of a fight with Chael Sonnen at UFC 136, his first loss since amassing a three-fight win streak.
But as time passed, I grew impatient waiting in the long line. We shuffled forward ever so slowly, taking a full step every five minutes with Stann being positioned in the farthest corner away from the entrance. Murmurs started to fill the silent void as unsettled MMA fans waited for their turn to meet him while complaining about the amount of time it took to walk a 30-foot distance to the signing table. Once I arrived at the table, however, I soon figured out why we were taking so long to make such a short trip.
Stann sat behind a simple wooden folding table with a stack of posters while fans laid down a plethora of MMA memorabilia for him to plant his signature on. Stann would ask for personalizations for each autograph and get a picture with whoever wanted. He wouldn’t let anyone leave without an autograph, either. If someone didn’t have enough money to buy a blank product such as a glove or poster, Stann would send them off with a poster of himself so that everyone had something to show off. But not only, did he fulfill his duties of a famous athlete appeasing to the needs of fans, but he gave as much time to each person as he or she chose to take from him. He fielded questions about his tour in Iraq, fighting Sonnen, who he wanted next, and much more.
This is when I became awe-struck by the humility and respect that Stann showed each and every fan, surely a product of his lengthy tenure in the Marine Corp. Stann’s smile never left his face and whether he had been asked a question once, or a thousand times, his answer still contained the same amount of patient, calculated thought to deliver an answer that would send the questioner away satisfied.
In the cage, Stann acted the same as he praised his opponent whether or not he won or lost whilst thanking vanquished foes just for stepping in the Octagon with him to let him perform a craft that he loved dearly. Such post-fight memories will resonate for a long-time in the minds of fans:
“I’m ecstatic. Jorge Santiago’s a true champion,” Stann said after he defeated Jorge Santiago at UFC 130. “It’s tough to transition right from Japan over here, he’s [Santiago’s] going to make a legit shot at this title, I’m just so grateful he gave me the honor to fight him.”
The vein-popping celebration post-Leben bout, the display of self-control as he stopped punching a visibly unconscious, Allesio Sakara, to the heartfelt speech after defeating Jorge Santiago by KO just two days before Memorial Day, all the way to delivering a victory speech while acknowledging a fallen fellow-soldier as he fought back tears almost just as hard as he had fought in the Octagon moments prior:
“I use this as a symbol. All you families that have lost someone out there in combat, this weekend is all about you. Please everybody, take some time this weekend, remember what it’s all about and thank those who sacrificed all for our freedoms so we could do this great sport,” – Brian Stann, UFC 130
Stann came in to the UFC while still trying to find his footing since his transition from the WEC. Eventually, he was able to make that transition, quickly becoming a household name for MMA fans while he put on some of the most memorable fights in recent memory. He also made a title run in the UFC’s middleweight division, scoring three finishes in a row, two by vicious knockout, before losing to former #1 contender Chael Sonnen. Stann wasn’t down for long as he stormed back to face Allesio Sakara in Sweden, knocking the Italian out in the first round with ease.
He certainly made his mark in fighting. In fact, his losses in the UFC besides his debut, all came against either top-10 fighters in their respective divisions, or to Wanderlei Silva in a brawl that blurred the line between real life and the climax to a Rocky film.
Stann retired on a special edition of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani today, with a well-crafted retirement speech that explained, in full, why he was stepping away from the sport:
“Bringing my third child into the world this fall, my third daughter, it is not a good idea for me to roll those dice. I’ve had the opportunities to get to the highest level of the sport. I’ve fought some of the best fighters in the world and, unfortunately, I’ve lost a bunch of those fights. That has stopped me from getting to the level I would like to get to in the sport. I do think I could continue, but if I were to continue, and try to revamp myself as a fighter, I think I’d run the risk of long-term health problems.”
Stann has moved to the next stage in his life, taking up a full-time commentating job with the ACC to cover football while providing analytic services to the UFC for pre- and post-fight shows. He even covers boxing for Golden Boy promotions from time to time.
He has made an intelligent step in his career and won’t stray far from a couple of sports that he loves. Nothing but the best should come to both Stann and his family who have all sacrificed something. While Stann was in the limelight for his heroics overseas and exciting fights in the Octagon, his family would remain patient and waiting to hear if the foundation of their family would make it out of his job safely. At least with his MMA career, he could return home that night, yet hardly ever without the bumps and bruises that the game sends you away with.
MMA Record – 12-6 (9 Knockouts, 1 Submission, 2 Decisions)
UFC Record – 6-5
Former WEC Light-Heavyweight Champion
3x Fight of the Night Winner
#8 Middleweight According to Sherdog.com
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