In the space of about a year, Brian Stann learned all about the great side of being a professional athlete, as well as the terrible price those who dare put themselves on the world's biggest stage must go through.
Stann became a media darling in mid-2007 because of his heavy hands and incredible personal story. He was a former college football star, a professional fighter and a U.S. Marine captain who earned a silver star for saving the lives of several fellow Marines while in combat.
When Stann lost, however, things turned around dramatically. He found that the Internet can be a nasty, hateful place. A thread on a forum on a mixed martial arts site was called "Do you hate Brian Stann?" It was begun while he was in the midst of his rise in the World Extreme Cagefighting, but it continued, and got nastier, as he lost his last two fights.
Stann will meet Steve Cantwell, who took his WEC light heavyweight belt on Aug. 3, 2008, in one of the key fights Wednesday on Spike TV's Ultimate Fight Night 19 card in Oklahoma City. The show will precede the debut of Season 10 of "The Ultimate Fighter." "I've had a little taste of life on the top and I'm getting a good feeling now for what it's like at the bottom," said Stann, who began his career 6-0 and won the WEC title, but has lost his last two bouts.
He was stopped by Cantwell in a rematch, then was submitted by Krzysztof Soszynski at UFC 97 in Montreal.
Stann views the losses very differently. He's philosophical about the defeat to Soszynski, noting he simply turned his hips the wrong way and Soszynski quickly took advantage and made him pay.
But he was ill-prepared against Cantwell, distracted by issues in his personal life, and was nowhere near ready to face a man who was motivated to gain revenge. Stann had beaten Cantwell a little more than a year earlier.
"The loss to Steve was way more distasteful than the [loss to] Krzysztof," Stann said. "Fighting wasn't my first priority and I fought very poorly, even though at the time, I had limited knowledge. I was over trained and distracted and I was going from place to place to place to place to train. None of the trainers I was seeing were talking to each other and helping me to put it all together.
"Steve came in and fought great. He clearly deserved to beat me, and he did. It bothers me because I just didn't come to that fight prepared like I should have been." Stann has since moved to Albuquerque, N.M., and is training with Greg Jackson's team. He's miles better technically and feels he's in better shape given the work he's done with the highly regarded Jonathan Chaimberg, who is the strength and conditioning coach for UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
He's got a job, his family situation is settled, and he's training with a good camp. He's been able to just concentrate on improving and preparing for Cantwell. But he got to see the seamy side of the business and it wasn't pretty.
Even some of his fellow Marines – or those who said they were Marines – took to taking shots at him.
"Things happened so fast and I went from zero to 60 in like two seconds because of the way the WEC marketed me," Stann said. "I knew I was raw and I knew I had a lot to learn, but I was out there in the media all the time. And when things went badly [in the cage], I heard about it. I got hate mail you wouldn't believe. People who are opposed to the war wrote and called me a murderer and things that are hard to believe one person would say to another.
"I saw this forum that went on and on and on for pages. It's kind of sobering, but in a way, it helped me realize that what's important in life is family, first and foremost, and being as good a husband and as good a father as I can be. And then being as good as I can at my job and hopefully getting better every day. Nothing else really matters."
I'd like to remind you to follow me on Twitter. You can send me questions for the mailbag or just choose to talk some boxing.
Hey Kevin, I was wondering what you thought about Bob Arum's comments about MMA, the UFC, the fighters and the fans. How can someone make such ignorant comments and not held accountable? What a sad man.
I know Arum to be an insightful, intelligent and shrewd man, but his comments were absolutely ridiculous and he clearly had no facts to back his statements. It looked like a desperate move to cling to a struggling business. Among Arum's "gems" in his interview with the excellent Ariel Helwani was this: "UFC fans are a bunch of skinhead white guys who are watching a bunch of people in the ring who look like skinhead white guys. Those aren't people who would have any interest in boxing. The only one they want to see is Kelly Pavlik." I'm sure Pavlik was pleased to hear that and I wonder if Arum noticed how many tattoos cover the bodies of not only the fighters he promotes but the New York Giants players he loves so dearly?
Your story on Frank Trigg was excellent. It was accurate to the center of a bulls eye. Elite competitors apply common sense, and the science of this sport. These are my favorite types of athletes. Frank Trigg, Frank Mir: I love these guys because they are so intelligent and so science-applied. This is needed because MMA is like chess at these levels.
I think where Trigg shines is in interviewing others. If a fight promotion ever needed someone to go to the locker room and do reports and interviews from there, Trigg would be the guy.
Nice story on Frank Trigg. Please tell us he's got a new nickname!
Bad news, Gus. He's still "Twinkletoes."
It's good to see Twinkletoes out of the booth and back in the big leagues. However, he is getting punch drunk if he thinks he's going to run anywhere else aside from the bank. There is a reason the move is called the "Rear naked Trigg." Kos will choke him out in the second round Saturday at UFC 103.
Rogers a solid Fedor foe
I am as disappointed as anyone that Fedor Emelianenko won't be fighting on the biggest possible stage, which is the UFC, but I resent the popular argument that he is going to be competing against second-rate guys. Would you agree that Shane Carwin and Brett Rogers have comparable resumes? Both are big, dangerous guys with undefeated records but limited competition against highly ranked opponents. Carwin has the one win against Gonzaga, Rogers against Arlovski. Point is, it's no less viable a test for Fedor as Carwin is for Lesnar.
I understand your point, Ian, and I have respect for Rogers. He's a huge puncher. The difference between he and Carwin is that Carwin has great wrestling to go with his striking. Rogers has shown nothing else. Rogers can win the fight if he happens to catch Fedor on the chin, but Fedor is far too well-rounded and I believe he'll come out on top.
Cro Cop's denials
What do you make of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic's continued claims that all of the negative press he received over his alleged betrayal of the UFC was simply the result of rumors? I am a huge Cro Cop fan, and I was extremely disappointed when I heard reports that he had signed with DREAM. But while I was relieved to find that he never signed a contract with them, and that we was coming back to the UFC, I am troubled with his denial of any wrongdoing. It seems to me that he, in fact, planned to go back to Dream, but that he ultimately realized how unscrupulous that made him look so he flip-flopped. I remember reading one of your mailbags where someone demanded that you apologize for your reporting on the issue, and I was glad to see you stand your ground,
The people who demanded I apologize for reporting the facts as they were at the time are simply fans who idolize Cro Cop and don't want to consider both sides. The facts are these: Ken Imai, his manager, was quoted in Japanese newspapers on the day of UFC 99 as saying Cro Cop had signed with Dream. The day of the fight, Filipovic himself told UFC president Dana White. I heard rumors of this during the card. At the post-fight news conference, Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press and I cornered White and questioned him about the rumors. White said it was true and said Filipovic had told him earlier in the day. Davidson and I reported the same things and used the same quotes. The following week, a DREAM official told USA Today that the company had signed Filipovic. What I think happened was this: Ken Imai negotiated a deal with Dream, while White and Filipovic negotiated a deal themselves over the phone. So, in essence, there were two deals and two agreements. One was the one Imai worked out that would have Filipovic go to Dream. The other was the one that White and Filipovic had worked out on the phone. I think when UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta flew to Croatia to talk to Filipovic, Filipovic realized what occurred and opted to live up to what he had verbally agreed to with White. His public comments, I think, are just an attempt to put the matter behind him.
Why hate Kimbo?
What is up with all the hatred for Kimbo Slice? I caught the preview for the new season of The Ultimate Fighter and was surprised several of the fighters disrespected him. I don't get it. In every interview, he's been respectful, acknowledged that he has a lot to learn, and risked more scorn and embarrassment by even appearing on the show. Yet, he gets dumped on, but a walking PR-nightmare like that jerk Lesnar gets cheered by some for his middle-school antics, acting like a dumb jock. What gives?
I saw the promotional clip on Spike and I didn't think the other guys really trashed him. But he made a lot more money in MMA than most of them ever will, despite the fact he's probably not nearly as talented as most of them. That's always going to lead to some jealousies.