Sometimes a fighter will imply they’ve seen it all in this game. Former MMA champion turned commentator Brian Stann, who visited with Caged Insider yesterday, has a better argument than most.
Stann retired from MMA competition last year, having amassed 13 career wins against the likes of Doug Marshall, who Stann defeated for the WEC Light Heavyweight title in 2010, and Chris Leben, who was then riding high on a three-fight UFC winning streak back in 2011. Along the way, the “All-American” had memorable battles against the likes of Michael Bisping (pictured above, in 2012), and Wanderlei Silva last year. The epic brawl with in Japan against Silva would be named “Fight of the Night” by the UFC, the third time Stann received that honor.
Today, Stann can be seen behind the microphone for UFC broadcasts, as well as for college football on FOX. In fact, the former US Naval Academy football standout, and later decorated US Marine, will leave for Brazil today as part of the commentary team for Sunday’s Ultimate Fight Night 38. The broadcast will feature the second bout between two legends of the sport, Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Stann has seen, and been a part of, a lot of great fights in his time, but he can’t wait for this one.
“This is a fight which I admired,” Stann gushes of the first Rua vs. Henderson bout in 2011, often regarded as among the best in MMA history. “I watched that first fight in awe. How two men hit their wall in round three and just drove right through it. When you can see that level of determination and heart? All men and women who share my values, and things I love in life, would be awestruck by that! I’m really excited to see that (again), and there are some match-ups on this card that have the opportunity to become classic match-ups as well.”
“These are all great match-ups,” he says of Ultimate Fight Night 38’s card. “But with Dan Henderson and ‘Shogun” Rua, you’ve got relevancy in the top five in the light heavyweight world on the line. One of these guys is going to stay relevant in this weight class — the other, people are going to say, well, maybe their time as a title challenger has passed.”
Both Henderson and Rua have Hall of Fame credentials, and are both ranked among the top ten light heavyweights in the UFC. But, both have been through the ringer of late: Rua only recently halted a two fight losing streak with a December knockout win over James Te-Huna, and Henderson has lost three consecutive bouts. In addition, Sunday’s bout would appear to be the last fight for Henderson with the benefit of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), which was recently abolished by athletic commissions worldwide.
The end of the controversial treatment leaves Henderson standing at a crossroads in his career.
“If he loses this fight he will have lost several in a row, and not being able to use testosterone, it’s going to make people question if he should continue fighting,” Stann says. “Fans are pretty fickle when it comes to that. It doesn’t play too much into this fight; we should the same Dan Henderson we always see. But, it will definitely play into his next fight.”
Still, Stann continues, “We have to keep in mind, he fights the best in the world. He lost to Lyoto Machida in a really odd decision. He lost to Rashad Evans, who is one of the greatest fighters in the world. He lost to Vitor Belfort in devastating fashion – and that’s how everybody has lost to Vitor recently. It’s not like he lost to bums.”
“Whether the UFC will employ him after this fight will likely depend on what kind of performance he puts forth.” Stann explains. “If it’s a similar fight as their first fight, and Henderson ends up on the short end of the stick, I doubt we see him let go. If he comes out on top, we’ll definitely not see him let go. But it’s definitely a legitimate question, how much does he need TRT and how much effect will it have on him moving forward. From what I’ve read from him and other guys coming off that therapy, it’s going to be difficult. Some have even said it may end their career. All that said, I’m very happy to see it (TRT) banned. It’s by far the right decision.”
Last month, when the decision was brought down by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Stann remarked via Twitter:
Very happy to see TRT banned, absolutely a ridiculous idea to start with and a major factor of my personal retirement from fighting
— Brian Stann (@BrianStann) February 27, 2014
Yesterday, Stann detailed how the TRT controversy, with many top-ranked fighters receiving exemptions to use synthetic testosterone, contributed to that decision to retire.
“It wasn’t just TRT,” he says. “It was performance enhancing drug use in general. I was always a clean fighter and it’s difficult when you’re fighting guys who are finding ways around the testing, finding legal ways to use these types of things – it’s absolutely ridiculous. People trying to dance around it, say it’s unfortunate. Look, they’re all wrong. They have to say that because they were using it.”
“It is a significant advantage,” he continues. “I have trained with guys who I knew when they were not taking stuff. When they cycled on synthetic testosterone, the difference was incredible. You can give me all the excuses in the world but I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes and felt it in my own training sessions. I’ve felt it in my own fights. I’ve seen the difference in people I train with. The difference is incredible. TRT needed to go.”
Click here for Part Two, with more insight from Stann on this Sunday’s fights, the PED controversy, whether Georges St-Pierre should return to the sport, and more.