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Evan Tanner as I Remember Him

Written by: Brett Atchley

Evan Tanner; today is his 40th birthday and with all that is happening in life in and away from the sport of MMA it just takes somebody like Evan to cause pause, reflect, take stock and appreciate not only our own existence but to realize how fortunate we all were to have known him.

I remember working for an MMA publication in the very early 2000’s. I had gone down to Gresham, Ore. to interview Randy Couture. It was one of my first interviews ever and Evan was there working out. It was on a Saturday.

I had asked Evan if he would stick around to talk with me after I finished with Randy. As I look back on it now, he smiled that smile and his eyes were alive. That’s what I remember the most. Evan was a extremely humble man and he made a person feel at ease when they were around him. He liked to have fun and he loved people.

I remember other times with him where we were at fights, after-party celebrations and just hanging out. He liked to have a good time, he could put the booze away for sure and that, I feel was a contributor to his inner demons. I know what he told me at one point about what tormented him and I won’t ever disrespect him by ever talking about it but he at one point lost hope in the goodness of people and left in search of it….

I ran into Phil Baroni at a UFC event in Las Vegas a very long time ago preceding his fight with Evan. We were “back stage” the day before and I had asked him what he saw his fight with Evan to be; He said, “If your sitting in the first six rows, you might might get hit with the teeth that I’ll knock out of his mouth.” Classic Baroni, to which I replied to Phil, “I don’t know how seriously you believe that, but if you do, you’re still very misguided in your assessment of Evan’s skills as a fighter and in what his heart is.” Baroni found out the hard way…

I was at Evan’s home one night not long after that. It had been a night of being out celebrating and the conversation we had was one of the coolest conversations I ever had with anyone. It was about life and how much that we don’t do all we can do in it or experience it on the levels that cause us to grow and define us as truly who we are as individuals…it always seemed that he was smiling, I don’t remember many times that he didn’t except when he was in the octagon.

Sometime after that, he left Oregon and just was sort of a Nomad. He just ended up where he ended up. He came back from time to time to train with Benji (Radach) and spent alot of time in Portland at Curtis’s gym by the airport and we would talk from time to time. He always seemed like he was looking for the answer for something and as he has said to make a difference…

I just wish I had listened to him more closely because there was always a different message in his conversation that lied beneath the surface, something that conflicted him and then a few years later, he was gone and I miss him but as a friend suggested today to me; celebrate who he was and how he lived and that is what I choose to do…

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