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Evan Tanner: 1971-2008

42244536_medium I was meaning to contribute my thoughts more thoroughly to our SBN brother-in-fight game-arms site, Bloody Elbow, but I couldn't bring myself to put anything together too completely in the two days since former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner was found dead. If you want more of the full scoop, do visit BE and read their many articles and thoughts on the life of Evan Tanner, because they've done a superb job covering this horrible story.

As I've said before, I've been an MMA fan for years, really starting to watch rather religously around 2003 after off-and-on viewing since UFC was a hot topic in the 1990s among politicians that either had nothing better to do or wanted to divert attention from things that truly mattered. Evan Tanner, no fooling, was one of my favorite fighters. Part of it stemmed from his association with Team Quest, a group of guys all among my favorite fighters at the time (Couture, Lindland, Henderson, etc.), and part of it stemming from his fights with Phil Baroni, one of my least favorite fighters.

For those that never watched MMA, or aren't familiar with Evan, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you he was a great fighter. He was good. I wouldn't go putting him in a Hall of Fame, because I think that's dishonest. But even before he was growing awesome beards and drinking Bud Light with a pick-axe in hand, there was just something I liked about him.

What happened over the years was the fans getting a more provocative glimpse into his life. For one thing, he maintained a blog. But there were also constant stories about his personal life, and frankly, none of them were good.

He had a severe drinking problem. He reportedly had gambling problems. He essentially went flat broke. He all but lost his career, really.

Yeah, he was always a free spirit. After all, this is a guy from Amarillo that dropped out of college because he wasn't receiving a "real world" education, prompting him to travel the country and take up MMA after he was done with that. But while some seem to count his death as noble or admirable, I can't help but feel entirely differently about that. I don't think Evan Tanner ever wanted to die, alone, in the desert. It was not his wish.

Tanner was a curious sort, to be sure. He was very intelligent, very full of thought and life. He was never the stereotypical MMA guy that many still expect, even though that stereotype has been debunked several times over by many fighters.

He seemed extremely introverted and extroverted at the same time. He was very much a "country boy" who had city sensibilities, if you know what I'm saying. He was something of an enigma. And he was never dull.

I guess when it all comes down to it, it's more maddening than anything else. Evan Tanner did not need to die at 37. I find nothing admirable about it. I think it's horribly tragic. All we can do now is hope that peace has found Evan's soul. The fight world will miss him.