It’s hard to believe but tomorrow marks five years since the passing of former UFC Middleweight Champion Evan Tanner.
At least, it is for me.
This sport has exploded in the years since. I’m sure many of our readers are even seeing these pictures of Tanner for the first time, standing alone, readying himself for a fight.
A quiet, contemplative guy who struggled with his own demons, it seems Evan Tanner was often alone. Eventually he linked with different camps, including Team Quest, but was, amazingly, basically self-taught as a fighter — learning jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai from VHS tapes in a one-room cabin powered by a single generator. His journey as a fighter, struggling with peaks and valleys due to alcoholism, would earn him UFC gold in 2005.
Eventually he’d embark on another solo quest, hiking alone across the California desert – and fall victim to heat exhaustion in 2008.
A feature length film about Tanner was released in 2011, Once I Was a Champion. It’s something every MMA fan, new and old, should see. It reveals the ups and downs of the champion’s life, offering detail from those who trained with and those who fought with him. It’s not afraid to show some of the dark with the light, and some dissenting opinions as well. I’d recommend all our readers to have a look at it.
This week, Bobby Razak, the director best known for seminal MMA documentary Rites of Passage, posted to The Underground Forum that he will be creating another feature film on Tanner’s tragic life:
“This week is the 5th year anniversary of Evan Tanners death I did a short movie to give some specific insight to how he died. My investigative nature is what compelled me. I will be releasing the film on thursday for the UG. I also want to do a film on Evans life so here is my indiegogo campaign video which also contains the trailer.”
(I’m on the fence about supporting this new offering from Razak, which is said to dramatize the former champion’s last days — including his hallucinations? — but have a look for yourself. The campaign video is here. The short he describes is to be released tomorrow. Maybe it’ll win me over.)
When we remember Evan Tanner, we’ll think of the great fights he left us, of course. The surprising victory against Dave Terrell to win the UFC middleweight title will probably top the list.
Once I Was a Champion, and tributes like this one from Sherdog, reveal the circumstances behind those fights, which as it turns out, were just as remarkable.
When I think of Evan Tanner — and I can only go off these stories and others I’ve heard – I think of a restless soul who never quite found where he was supposed to fit in life. That describes a lot of us to one degree or another, which is why Tanner’s words (“Believe in the Power of One” was emblazoned on his T-shirts) inspired so many.
Unfortunately, Evan would ultimately take his journeying, his following of an adventuring spirit, to an extreme.
There’s still a lot I don’t understand about Evan Tanner. But, I know he’s missed.
RIP Evan Tanner, 1971-2008.