“I look at the guy on the other side of the cage as someone who is trying to take food off my daughters’ table, and take money out of my family’s pocket.”
Brian “All American” Stann considers himself lucky to have been matched up with Chris “The Crippler” Leben in the co-main event at UFC 125: Edgar vs Maynard 2 on January 1st.
“Chris has already accomplished more inside the Octagon than I may accomplish in my entire MMA career,” says Stann. “We called Joe Silva and asked for the fight, and like the true fighter that Leben is, he accepted it. I’m excited.” Hear from Stann after UFC 125
Stann (9-3) is the former WEC light heavyweight champion who finds himself fighting at middleweight for just the second time in his career, and he believes he’s stronger than ever. Details on Stann's autobiography
“It’s a move I should have made sooner,” says Stann. “I wasn’t confident in my weight cutting abilities and it turns out that I turned my nutrition over to one of my best friends named George Lockhart, he’s a Sergeant from the Marine Corps and he’s the best nutritionist in the game. He’s very scientific when it comes to weight cuts. This weight cut is going much smoother than the first time.”
That first time at 185 pounds, Stann earned Fight of the Night honors en route to a third round submission victory over Mike Massenzio at UFC on Versus: Jones vs Matyushenko, winning with a third round triangle choke.
It was Stann’s first submission victory in his career.
“I think I’ve had tremendous growth in my style since joining the UFC two years ago,” he said. “I train year round. I take no time off between fights except for a couple of days to heal some bumps and bruises. When I first came to the UFC I had to find a way to beat fighters who were better than me. I was not ready for that step up from the WEC, but who in their right mind is going to tell the UFC no? I had to take that opportunity, so I surrounded myself with the right people for every skill set, and I’ve worked my butt off two and three times a day over the past two and half years and I’m going to surprise a lot of people in this fight.”
With the rest of the WEC now merged with the UFC, the lighter weights who now find themselves in Stann’s shoes can take something away from what he says about swimming in the UFC’s deeper waters.
“They need to ensure and seek out the best training they can get,” he said. “In the WEC there’s a smaller population of fighters and they were getting some of the same matchups over and over again, rematches, and etcetera. Coming into the UFC they’re going to see a much more diverse skill set and more diverse fighters, so sometimes training with just one coach out of one gym doesn’t cut it.”
Stann trains in Albuquerque, New Mexico under Greg Jackson, and says the network of trainers and fighters at his disposal are crucial to his development.
“That’s the great thing about Greg Jackson,” he says. “He’s really spawned a network for us to travel around, because to be good in this game you need to be getting a lot of different coaches’ perspectives and training with a bunch of different guys. If you get caught just training in your comfort zone you’re going to get surprised coming into the UFC.”
Jackson’s network includes trainers Firas Zihabi in Montreal, Phil Nurse and John Danaher in New York City, and Trevor Wittman in Denver, Colorado, while the stable of fighters Stann is referring to includes standouts like Georges St-Pierre, Rashad Evans, Nate Marquardt and Clay Guida.
In other words, good company to be in if you’re a professional mixed martial artist.
Leben, for his part, is on a hot streak, coming off three wins in a row; his last two occurring in a two week span against Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama last summer. A win against an opponent with such momentum would certainly announce Stann’s presence in the division.
“I think he’s a great fighter,” he says. “He always brings it and he goes hard every single round and he’s worked hard the last couple of years to become more well rounded. He’s not really a brawler any more, and he’s more technical than people give him credit for. His grappling is very solid. I think I’m a better technical fighter than he is and he’s probably identified some weaknesses in my game that maybe he’s honing in on, but he’s going to find on fight night that I’m vastly improved.”
For Stann, a US Marine Corps veteran who was awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third highest medal for valor in combat, fighting is more than a career. To him, it’s representing every man and woman in the armed services, and it’s what he does to provide for his wife and two daughters, Alexandra (4) and DeAnna (1).
In his autobiography Heart for the Fight: A Marine Hero's Journey from the Battlefields of Iraq to Mixed Martial Arts Champion, which was released in September, Stann writes about things like honor and valor, but he also writes about what drives him to train every day.
“I look at the guy on the other side of the cage as someone who is trying to take food off my daughters’ table, and take money out of my family’s pocket,” he said. “It’s not about being on TV and who wants an autograph; it’s about being the best fighter I can be, because my daughters deserve nothing less.”
It’s not very common for a fighter to admit in print that he wasn’t ready to fight in the UFC, and the fact that Stann did should give pause to any opponent whom he faces. It takes not just humility to make that admission, but confidence, and as any UFC fan knows, confidence in this game is a dangerous weapon to possess.
“This is going to be a much tougher fight than he (Leben) anticipates,” says Stann.