Evan Tanner: Still an Inspiration

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 by Tony Reid

So February 11th would have been Evan Tanner’s 40th Birthday. It would be easy and generic to simply say “Evan was a great fighter and a great man and he will be missed”. That statement is 100% true but wouldn’t begin to do Evan or his memory justice. He deserves to be remembered, really, truly, remembered because men like Evan are few are far between…in our society today and even in MMA specifically. I personally was inspired and influenced by Evan in a number of ways. First and foremost as most of us came to know him through his mixed martial arts career. I remember watching his early fights and becoming a big fan, I would count him toward the top of my short list of favorite fighters alongside Kazushi Sakuraba, Randy Couture, Frank Mir and Nick Diaz. A few (well 6 or 7) years ago I would rattle off that list and people would look at me like I was crazy when I would throw Evan’s name in the mix. I would look back at them as if they were crazy for even asking. From his early fights in the UFC against Gholar, Ignatov, Gibson and even Tito, to the middle of his UFC stint where he fought Rich Franklin and the ever annoying Phil Baroni, to winning the Middleweight Championship in his fight with David Terrell only to lose it next time out against Franklin. I vividly remember his fights against the motor mouthed Baroni, the muscular, cocky and disrespectful New Yorker against the quiet, respectful Texan. Man, I just wanted to Tanner to shut Baroni up! On paper, well, physically, too he looked like an underdog in this fight and most others in his career but you could never measure what was inside Evan Tanner. Sure he took a beating against most but he always seemed to overpower his opponent with what he could dig up from his heart, his soul and his gut. He did indeed shut Baroni up and he came back from the brink to beat the younger, more technically skilled Terrell to win the championship. The Terrell fight was such a good representation of Tanner as a man, he was down, hurt, getting beat and almost counted out but just absolutely willed himself to get the best of the younger Terrell. Call it life experience, call it intestinal fortitude, call it old man strength, call it what you will but know that Evan Tanner had “it” in spades. Toward the end of his career he started to get his voice and become more and more popular. Sadly the only fight I saw in person was his loss at UFC 82 at the hands of Yushin Okami.

This leads me to the second wave of inspiration and influence of Evan Tanner. He stated sharing so much through his blogs on MySpace and elsewhere that as a huge fan I was more than interested to read what he was up to. It quickly turned from my curiosity about nonsensical, trivial stuff to real, legit, life topics and discussions. He allowed his fans access that few, if any other fighter or celebrity would allow at that time or even now in the age of Facebook and Twitter. I had such an admiration for his honesty, his openness to share his story with anyone that wanted to hear it. Not only did he share the good, he shared the bad. The hard times, the challenges, and all that come with the hurdles we all face in life. He shared his great ability to be the living in the moment, his cross country road trips, his admiration and respect for our planet, for nature and so many other topics. He never seemed tied down to anyone or anything for too long. If he wanted to ride his motorcylce down the west coast he did, if he wanted to fly to help children in some other part of the country on a whim, he did. Man, to live like that. Now that is truly living my friends and that is what I respect so much about him as a man. He, on some levels, inspired me to start writing and challenging my own thoughts, ideas and my ways. I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet him in Las Vegas not long before he passed. I’m sure I was a babbling idiot in our conversation but I walked away knowing that at the very least, I had the opportunity to look the man in the eyes, shake his hand and tell him how much he inspired me. There are very few times that I hear of a celebrity or a public figure’s passing that I even react at all but in the moments after learning of Evan’s passing I’m not ashanmed to say I was moved to some degree. I really felt like we all had lost someone very special. I have had a number of conversations with my fiancee about naming our future children and I think I have her sold on a pretty awesome name. How does Tanner Reid sound?