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Why Evan Tanner Was Important

Evan TannerEDITOR’S NOTE: A petition requesting former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner be posthumously inducted into the UFC hall of fame can be signed here. — KK

I once wrote that Evan Tanner’s excursions were, if nothing else, unnecessary, and in my opinion they were. But that is what separates people like Evan Tanner from the rest of us average joes. Someone like myself could never really understand what motivated someone like Evan to take such great risks. He was a different breed of individual who sought much more out of life than most anyone else on the planet.

Evan Tanner truly mattered. Not just as a fighter, but as a person. Usually when someone dies people feel obligated to try and scrape up something unique to say about them. But for Tanner, this is a pretty easy task. For starters, Evan Tanner was a man of tremendous heart. He was only self-trained for much of his early career, learning MMA techniques from watching instructional video tapes. Tanner battled back from alcohol addiction, refused corporate sponsors even though he lived and died utterly broke due to gambling losses, and donated more time to charitable organizations than any other fighter I can think of. He also earned the UFC middleweight crown and held it for mere moments before losing it, never complaining about his short lived glory.

Put simply, Evan Tanner’s mysterious, confusing, and sometimes bizarre life of boozing, gambling and fighting meant something to more people than even he could have ever imagined. Tanner may have died at 37, but trust when I say that he lived more than any of us might ever hope to. Tanner lived the way people were probably meant to live, the way we probably would live if we didn’t have day jobs, mortgages, wives, children, tuition, and everything in between. I think all of us have that innate desire to explore the great unknown a la Kerouac or McCandless, but the difference is Tanner actually did it. On several occasions. Sadly, he will not be coming back from his latest adventure.

Evan was also famous for letting his inner lunatic shine through, and not trying desperately to hide it from the rest of the world. Hell, he even created a blog about it. A lot of people thought he was crazy, and he probably was, but he let you know it. Evan Tanner rocked a papa smurf beard in the scalding Las Vegas sun, he lived in shambles and wrote obscure poetry to pass the time, and he admitted every time he screwed up and despite the obvious, you had to respect his honesty. And, of course, Evan Tanner took it upon himself to hit the open road at any given time just because he felt like it. Ignoring danger and precautions, Evan did things no one ever had to do, but probably should at least once in a lifetime, if perhaps to a lesser extent.

In the end, I cannot help but think that Evan carried on to the next life in a manner suiting to his own taste. Somehow, the idea of Tanner nodding off peacefully in the night in some hospital bed doesn’t seem quite realistic for the man who was never content to sit still in any one place for too long.

To sum things up, I leave you with the words from Team Tanner founder John Hayner, who suggests, as opposed to donating money to some newly formed foundation, what one might want to do to help honor the memory of our departed friend.

“Evan would be very happy if people remembered him by doing something unexpectedly nice for someone who is in need. Evan is not gone – we will carry him in our hearts forever.”

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