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Evan Loyd Tanner (February 11, 1971 – September 8, 2008) was an American professional mixed martial arts fighter, writer, traveler, and adventurer. He was a former UFC Middleweight Champion and was also the first American to win the Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament in Tokyo, Japan.[3]

Evan Tanner
Born(1971-02-11)February 11, 1971
Amarillo, Texas, US
DiedSeptember 5, 2008(2008-09-05) (aged 37)
Palo Verde, California, US
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight185 lb (84 kg; 13.2 st)
Light Heavyweight
Reach74 in (188 cm)[1]
StyleWrestling, BJJ
  • Hard Knocks Kickboxing[2]
  • Team Quest
  • Chute Boxe USA
  • American Top Team
  • USA Stars
Years active1997–2008
Mixed martial arts record
By knockout8
By submission21
By decision3
By knockout6
By submission1
By decision1
Other information
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Tanner won the UFC Middleweight Championship at UFC 51, stopping David Terrell with strikes in the first round. He is considered to be a pioneer in the sport of MMA and is credited as being one of the first fighters to use elbows as an effective striking method in the ground and pound position.

Tanner is considered to be somewhat of an anomaly in MMA as he began his professional career with a large degree of success despite primarily learning the sport via instructional videotape. He was also one of the first MMA fighters to use social media as a platform to connect with fans.

Tanner earned notable career victories over former UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler, former King of Pancrase Middleweight and Welterweight Champion Kiuma Kunioku, Heath Herring, Paul Buentello, Phil Baroni (x2), and Ikuhisa Minowa, among others.


Tanner was born in Amarillo, Texas and graduated from Caprock High School in 1989 where he won the Texas State Championships in wrestling as a junior and senior despite[4] only entering the sport in his second year of high school. Tanner attended Simpson College in Iowa but dropped out when he was 19 because he felt that he was not receiving a "real world" education that he was searching for. After dropping out, he travelled the country working various jobs as a bouncer, a cable television contractor, a framer building beach houses, a dishwasher, a baker, a ditch digger, and slaughterhouse worker. After a brief one semester stint at the University of Oklahoma he eventually returned to Amarillo and entered a local mixed martial arts tournament. What he thought would be an isolated event served as a springboard to his professional career.

During his UFC career, Tanner lived in Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2008, he relocated to Oceanside, California.

Mixed martial arts careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Tanner, with a wrestling background, began fighting in 1997 when he was convinced by friends to enter a local MMA tournament, hosted by the now defunct Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation. Tanner won the tournament, defeating three fighters including future UFC Heavyweight contender Paul Buentello, in one night.

After his initial success, Tanner taught himself submission and grappling techniques using instructional videos created by the famous Gracie family. He continued to fight in local shows and tournaments in Texas and Iowa before traveling across the world to Japan to compete in the Pancrase organization. Tanner won five fights overseas and competed in the USWF once more before being asked to join the UFC.

Tanner made his UFC debut in 1999 at UFC 18, submitting fellow Amarillo native Darrell Gholar by rear naked choke in the first round. Tanner's next fight in the UFC was against Valerie Ignatov at UFC 19. Ignatov was widely known for his leg submissions and because of this, Tanner decided to fight barefoot for the first time in his career, citing that shoes sometimes make it easier for an opponent to gain a submission.

Tanner fought once more in Pancrase and defended his title two more times in the USWF before deciding to take the first of multiple breaks from fighting in his career. He returned to action in July 2000 and remained undefeated in the USWF, successfully keeping his Heavyweight belt in victories over Raoul Romero and Vinny Nixon. Tanner made his next appearance in the UFC at UFC 29, beating Lance Gibson by TKO.

A new outlook on fightingEdit

With three victories in the UFC, Tanner received a title shot against UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz at UFC 30. Unfortunately, Tanner suffered his first UFC loss in just 32 seconds, being knocked unconscious due to a high level slam by Ortiz. It was after this defeat that Tanner began to become a more disciplined fighter.

Tanner was invited to compete in the −88 kg division at the 2001 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, which took place April 11–13, 2001 at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tanner was defeated by Sanae Kikuta on points (6–0) in the opening round.

Tanner began training with Oregon-based Team Quest. He returned to the Octagon at UFC 34, taking on Homer Moore, whom he stopped in the second round with an armbar. At UFC 36 he defeated Elvis Sinosic by TKO (cut), and at UFC 38 won a unanimous decision over Chris Haseman in an unaired undercard bout. In his next fight, at UFC 42, he faced Rich Franklin. He was defeated by TKO (strikes) in the first round.

After his loss to Franklin, Tanner decided that his frame was not large enough for Light Heavyweight, prompting his decision to drop to Middleweight, where he would be more physically imposing than many of the opponents in that division.

Baroni I and IIEdit

Upon becoming a Middleweight, Tanner faced Phil Baroni in consecutive fights at UFC 45 and UFC 48 respectively. Both of the bouts between the two had their share of controversy. In the early minutes of their fight at UFC 45, Baroni was in control as he stunned and bloodied Tanner. However, Tanner was able to regain his composure and take Baroni to the ground where he threw a series of unanswered punches and elbows. After a brief verbal exchange between Baroni and referee Larry Landless the fight was stopped and Tanner was awarded the victory.

Immediately after the fight, Baroni contended that he did not submit and in the confusion struck Landless in the face twice. Baroni maintained that it was a verbal miscommunication and he never asked for the fight to be stopped. To quell the controversy, the UFC agreed to give Baroni a rematch at UFC 48.

Their matchup at UFC 48 showed Tanner to be the clear-cut victor. It was noted many times during the broadcast that Baroni did not look like himself. After the fight, Baroni stated that his game plan was to prevent fatigue in the earlier rounds by pacing himself.

Road to the UFC Middleweight titleEdit

After winning these fights, Tanner was victorious for a third time in the Middleweight division against Robbie Lawler at UFC 50 in October 2004, submitting him with a triangle choke. Shortly after the Lawler fight, Tanner left Team Quest and began training on his own.

Because of his success, Tanner was given a shot at the vacant UFC Middleweight championship against David Terrell at UFC 51 in February 2005. Despite being the underdog, Tanner fought out of a deep guillotine choke from the Cesar Gracie student and black belt when Tanner looked to clinch. He went on to control Terrell on the ground against the cage in half guard, delivering punches and elbows until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight in the final seconds of the first round. Tanner became the first UFC Middleweight champion since Murilo Bustamante held the title before leaving for PRIDE Fighting Championships in 2002.

Tanner was next given the opportunity to avenge his loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 53 in June 2005. Franklin had also decided to drop down to the Middleweight division after fighting as a Light Heavyweight for years. Tanner was able to knock Franklin down with a right hand in the first round of the bout but Franklin took control from there, dominating Tanner until the fight was stopped by the ringside doctor due to multiple cuts and swelling on Tanner's face.

Tanner's fight against Franklin at UFC 53 proved to decide the winner of the fight as one of the coaches for The Ultimate Fighter 2 reality show. Tanner had expressed a great deal of interest in being one of the coaches, stating that the opportunity would give him tremendous exposure. Franklin subsequently became a coach on the show along with then UFC Welterweight champion Matt Hughes. While Franklin and Hughes did not fight after the conclusion of the show, Hughes has stated that he would have moved up to 185 lbs to challenge Tanner for the UFC Middleweight Title if Tanner became a coach on the show.

After losing the title, Tanner began training with American Top Team, but lost his next fight to David Loiseau at Ultimate Fight Night 2 in October 2005. Tanner was ahead on points until the fight was stopped in the second round due to a cut Tanner received from a Loiseau elbow.

Shortly after this fight, Tanner appeared as himself on an episode of Beyond the Glory that aired on Fox Sports Networks and chronicled the history of the UFC.

After his defeat to Loiseau, Tanner took time away to deal with some personal issues but stated that he would become an official member of the Chute Boxe team.

Tanner returned to the UFC in April 2006 at UFC 59, defeating Justin Levens by way of triangle choke in what was Tanner's last victory in MMA. Levens was a late replacement for Jeremy Horn who was originally scheduled to fight Tanner but was forced to withdraw after a training injury.


On December 29, 2006, Tanner unveiled plans to set up a mixed martial arts training camp that would be located at his house in Gresham, Oregon. The focus would be setting up a home for disadvantaged athletes and young men at risk. Tanner travelled from Las Vegas to Gresham in the following weeks and began to set up the project. Tanner remodeled and refurnished the house so it would be fit for the athletes to live in.

In February 2007, Tanner announced further details about the foundation. Twelve athletes would reside in the house from six different weight classes. (Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterweight, Lightweight and Featherweight).

In a March 2007 interview with MMA Weekly, Tanner was asked about the possibility of fighting again but indicated that he wanted to focus on developing his foundation. However, he did hint that he would be training year-round with the athletes he would be coaching and that it might only be a matter of time before he returned. UFC president Dana White was interviewed by CBS Sportsline one week later and stated that Tanner would be welcomed back whenever he was ready.

On May 11, 2007, further foundation development was put on hold by Tanner, citing his own training and a bad experience with the first fighter that was invited to the house. Tanner announced through his official website that he would return to active competition and continue his quest to regain the UFC Middleweight title.

Rumours stated that Tanner would make his return to the UFC in December 2007 at UFC 79 against Dean Lister,[5] where he would represent the American Chute Boxe team. That report was dismissed by Tanner, as he did not have an upcoming fight with Dean Lister, and was continuing to battle his alcohol problems.[6] Furthermore, he stated that things had not worked out with American Chute Boxe and he no longer trained with them. He then started training at Hard Knocks Kickboxing in Las Vegas.[7]

On November 8, 2007, Tanner announced the signing of a new 4-fight deal with the UFC. In addition to his signing with the UFC Tanner revealed that he intended to accept no corporate sponsorships in favour of starting "Team Tanner" intended as an exclusive fan club to be represented in his upcoming fights.[7]

His first fight back in the UFC was at UFC 82, where he lost to Japanese fighter Yushin Okami and was knocked out by a knee to the head from the clinch position, in the second round.[8]

Tanner was interviewed by Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten in a June 2008 episode of Inside MMA on AXS TV, appearing alongside fellow panelists Brett Rogers and Josh Gross.

In what would be his final fight, Tanner lost to Kendall Grove in a split decision at The Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale on June 21, 2008. This makes this Tanner's fifth loss in his last ten fights.

In a post-match interview, Tanner stated that he felt "flat" throughout the fight and that he had begun wondering if his two years of serious alcohol abuse had damaged his body past the point of which he could compete at the level he once had.[9]


Some people expressed concern about Tanner's wellbeing going into the desert alone. Tanner responded to concerns about his plans for a desert adventure in a post on August 27, 2008.

"It seems some MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) websites have reported on the story, posting up that I might die out in the desert, or that it might be my greatest opponent yet, etc. Come on, guys. It's really common down in Southern California to go out to the off-road recreation areas in the desert about an hour away from LA and San Diego. So my plan is to go out to the desert, do some camping, ride the motorcycle, and shoot some guns. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. A lot of people do it. This isn't a version of 'Into the Wild.'"[10]

Tanner had recently purchased a dirt bike, and on September 3, 2008 he rode into the desert region west of Palo Verde, California to go camping.[11] According to Tanner's manager John Hayner, Tanner called that afternoon to say that his bike had run out of gas, and that he would accordingly walk back to his camp. This conflicted with the later military report that Tanner's bike was found at camp.[11] Temperatures that day reached 118 °F (48 °C), and friends became concerned and reported Tanner missing after he failed to contact them.[11] His body was discovered by a Marine helicopter on September 8, 2008.

The Imperial County coroner determined Tanner's time of death to be sometime between late September 4 and early September 5, but the legal date of death was recorded as September 8, 2008. Tanner's body was found near Clapp Spring with empty water bottles. Tanner had reportedly intended to refill his bottles at the spring before heading back to the provisions at his campsite, but the spring was unexpectedly dry, and Tanner text messaged a friend informing him of this. However, Evan felt he could make it back to camp if he traveled during the later hours of the evening, refusing offers at that time to send help. Friends were told that if they had not heard from Evan by the next morning and could not reach him by 8 am, they then needed to contact Search and Rescue.

Rescuers found Evan at a spot where he stopped to rest. During that rest, he succumbed to the excessive heat, slipping over onto his side into the position that rescuers found him in. An empty water pouch was nearby. According to the military article that was posted, Evan's motorcycle was at his camp, and within his provisions were ample supplies of water.[12] The Imperial County sheriff's office official cause of death was cited as heat exposure.[11]


A celebration of life service was held in Amarillo, Texas, on September 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the Amarillo Civic Center. A less formal gathering was held at a close friend's house in Oceanside for those that were a part of Evan's life. It was attended by Evan's sister and those close to Evan, with sharing of stories and pictures of his life. At dusk, a candlelight vigil was held to honor their friend and loved one.

The UFC honored Tanner during the Spike TV broadcast of UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Neer on September 17, 2008. Pancrase paid tribute to Tanner with a special ceremony during their 15th Anniversary Show on October 1, 2008. Shark Fights also honored Tanner during their inaugural event at the Amarillo National Center on October 24, 2008.

The 2008 World MMA Awards, which took place on December 31, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada and aired on Versus, dedicated the show to Tanner's memory.

A documentary about Tanner's life, travels, and philosophy, titled "Once I Was A Champion" and directed by Gerard Roxburgh,[13] premiered in competition at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival as an official selection and was nominated for "Best Documentary Feature" [2]. The film was also an official selection at the 2011 Dallas Video Festival as well as the inaugural Arclight Documentary Film Festival in November 2011. It won the "Best Documentary Audience Award" at the 2011 Bel Air Film Festival.

English film director and producer Bobby Razak released a documentary about Tanner titled "1" in March 2014, studying the events behind Tanner's tragic death.

On June 19, 2019, Variety reported that a biopic about Tanner's life and career titled "The Power of 1" was in the works. The film is reportedly slated to go into pre-production at the end of 2019, with principal photography planned for early 2020.

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit

Mixed martial arts recordEdit

Professional record breakdown
40 matches 32 wins 8 losses
By knockout 8 6
By submission 21 1
By decision 3 1
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 32–8 Kendall Grove Decision (split) The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage vs. Team Forrest Finale June 21, 2008 3 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 32–7 Yushin Okami KO (knee) UFC 82 March 1, 2008 2 3:00 Columbus, Ohio, United States UFC Middleweight title eliminator.
Win 32–6 Justin Levens Submission (triangle choke) UFC 59: Reality Check April 15, 2006 1 3:14 Anaheim, California, United States Submission of the Night.
Loss 31–6 David Loiseau TKO (doctor stoppage) UFC Ultimate Fight Night 2 October 3, 2005 2 4:15 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States UFC Middleweight title eliminator.
Loss 31–5 Rich Franklin TKO (doctor stoppage) UFC 53 June 4, 2005 4 3:25 Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States Lost the UFC Middleweight Championship. Fight of the Night.
Win 31–4 David Terrell TKO (punches) UFC 51 February 5, 2005 1 4:35 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Won the vacant UFC Middleweight Championship.
Win 30–4 Robbie Lawler Submission (triangle choke) UFC 50 October 22, 2004 1 2:22 Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States UFC Middleweight title eliminator.
Win 29–4 Phil Baroni Decision (unanimous) UFC 48 June 19, 2004 3 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Fight of the Night.
Win 28–4 Phil Baroni TKO (punches) UFC 45 November 21, 2003 1 4:42 Uncasville, Connecticut, United States Middleweight debut.
Loss 27–4 Rich Franklin TKO (punches) UFC 42 April 25, 2003 1 2:40 Miami, Florida, United States
Win 27–3 Shannon Ritch Submission (triangle choke) FCFF-Fighting Against Cancer February 15, 2003 1 2:19 Portland, Oregon, United States
Win 26–3 Chris Haseman Decision (unanimous) UFC 38 July 13, 2002 3 5:00 London, England
Win 25–3 Elvis Sinosic TKO (doctor stoppage) UFC 36 March 22, 2002 1 2:06 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 24–3 Homer Moore Submission (armbar) UFC 34 November 2, 2001 2 0:55 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 23–3 Tito Ortiz KO (slam) UFC 30 February 23, 2001 1 0:30 East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States For the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
Win 23–2 Lance Gibson TKO (punches and elbows) UFC 29 December 16, 2000 1 4:48 Tokyo, Japan
Win 22–2 Travis Fulton Submission (triangle choke) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 18 November 25, 2000 1 4:38 Amarillo, Texas, United States Defended the USWF Heavyweight Championship.
Win 21–2 Raoul Romero TKO (punches) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 17 July 17, 2000 1 6:59 Amarillo, Texas, United States Defended the USWF Heavyweight Championship.
Win 20–2 Vinny Nixon Submission (keylock) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 14 April 24, 1999 1 1:07 Lubbock, Texas, United States Defended the USWF Heavyweight Championship.
Loss 19–2 Leon Dijk TKO (knees and palm strikes) Pancrase – Breakthrough 4 April 18, 1999 1 11:39 Yokohama, Japan
Win 19–1 Mike Cizek Submission (punches) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 13 March 20, 1999 1 2:06 Amarillo, Texas, United States Defended the USWF Heavyweight Championship.
Win 18–1 Valeri Ignatov TKO (elbows) UFC 19 March 5, 1999 1 2:58 Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, United States
Win 17–1 Darrel Gholar Submission (rear-naked choke) UFC 18 January 8, 1999 1 7:57 New Orleans, Louisiana, United States Light Heavyweight debut.
Win 16–1 Ryushi Yanagisawa Submission (arm-triangle choke) Pancrase: Advance 12 December 19, 1998 1 2:24 Chiba, Japan
Win 15–1 Gene Lydick Submission (rear-naked choke) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 12 October 24, 1998 1 4:15 Amarillo, Texas, United States Defended the USWF Heavyweight Championship.
Win 14–1 Kiuma Kunioku Decision (lost points) Pancrase: 1998 Anniversary Show September 14, 1998 1 20:00 Tokyo, Japan
Win 13–1 Justin McCully Technical Submission (kimura) Pancrase: 1998 Neo-Blood Tournament Second Round July 26, 1998 1 5:07 Tokyo, Japan Won the Pancrase Neo-Blood Tournament.
Win 12–1 Kousei Kubota Submission (arm-triangle choke) Pancrase: 1998 Neo-Blood Tournament Opening Round July 7, 1998 1 2:23 Tokyo, Japan Pancrase Neo-Blood Tournament semifinal.
Win 11–1 Ikuhisa Minowa Submission (arm-triangle choke) Pancrase: 1998 Neo-Blood Tournament Opening Round July 7, 1998 1 4:05 Tokyo, Japan Pancrase Neo-Blood Tournament Quarterfinal.
Win 10–1 Tony Castillo TKO (knees) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 9 June 20, 1998 1 4:06 Amarillo, Texas, United States Defended the USWF Heavyweight Championship.
Win 9–1 Dennis Reed Submission (triangle choke) Gladiators 2 April 18, 1998 1 1:20 Iowa, United States Extreme Challenge Heavyweight Tournament Final. Won Extreme Challenge Heavyweight Tournament.
Win 8–1 Wade Kroeze TKO (knees) Gladiators 2 April 18, 1998 1 1:00 Iowa, United States Extreme Challenge Heavyweight Tournament Semifinal.
Win 7–1 Rusty Totty Submission (arm-triangle choke) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 8 March 28, 1998 1 1:36 Amarillo, Texas, United States Defended the USWF Heavyweight Championship
Loss 6–1 Heath Herring Submission (rear-naked choke) PSDA November 22, 1997 1 8:20 Texas, United States PSDA Heavyweight tournament final.
Win 6–0 Jesse Gonzalez Submission (ezekiel choke) PSDA November 22, 1997 1 1:15 Texas, United States PSDA Heavyweight tournament semifinal.
Win 5–0 Joe Frailey Submission (punches) PSDA November 22, 1997 1 0:56 Texas, United States PSDA Heavyweight tournament quarterfinal.
Win 4–0 Heath Herring Submission (exhaustion) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 7 October 18, 1997 1 6:19 Amarillo, Texas, United States Won the USWF Heavyweight Championship.
Win 3–0 Paul Buentello Submission (rear-naked choke) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 4 April 12, 1997 1 2:20 Amarillo, Texas, United States Won the USWF 4 Heavyweight tournament.
Win 2–0 Gary Nabors Submission (keylock) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 4 April 12, 1997 1 2:21 Amarillo, Texas, United States USWF 4 Heavyweight tournament semifinal.
Win 1–0 Mike Kennedy Submission (palm strikes) Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 4 April 12, 1997 1 1:29 Amarillo, Texas, United States USWF 4 Heavyweight tournament quarterfinal.


  1. ^ "Evan Tanner's Official ESPN Profile". Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  2. ^ "Chute Boxe Academy: Official Site3". Chute Boxe. 2007. Archived from the original on September 21, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
  3. ^ "Ultimate Fighting Championship". Archived from the original on March 30, 2010. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  4. ^ "Caprock Wrestling". Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  5. ^ Stupp, Dann (September 3, 2007). "Reports: Dean Lister vs. Evan Tanner Tentatively Planned for UFC 79". Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  6. ^ Mrosko, Geno (September 18, 2007). "Evan Tanner: Drinking ... not fighting – MMA Mania". Archived from the original on October 22, 2007. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "". Archived from the original on March 16, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  8. ^ "Ultimate Fighting Championship". Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  9. ^ Tanner, Evan. "[1]",, published August 16, 2008.
  10. ^ "Ex-Caprock wrestler reported dead | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal". Lubbock Online. September 9, 2008. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c d Baker, Debbie. "Body in desert ID'd as UFC ex-champ Tanner Archived June 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine", The San Diego Union-Tribune, published September 10, 2008.
  12. ^ "Marines Find UFC Champion's Body". September 9, 2008. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  13. ^ "Evan Tanner". Once I Was a Champion. September 8, 2008. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  14. ^ "Pro Wrestling History". Pro Wrestling History. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  15. ^ "FightMetric Fighter Stats". FightMetric. Retrieved January 13, 2018.

External linksEdit