After eight years and 18 professional fights, Brian Stann has decided to call it a career. The perennial UFC middleweight contender announced his retirement on Thursday's special edition of The MMA Hour.
"If you look at my life, I've been getting hit in the head since I was in second grade playing football," Stann said. "I'm now 32 years old. That's a long time, and there's only so long that I can roll those dice and be successful. For me, the risk is not worth it.
"I'm very, very lucky to have other options. I've maintained a fulltime job the entire time I was a fighter just because things like this could happen. You never know how successful you can be fighting. I've got some other options and I think it's time I focus more on them. Dana (White) has been very supportive. We talked briefly about it, but he was extremely supportive. I hope that he and the UFC will continue to allow me to be involved in the sport in any way possible."
A fan-favorite and one of the true gentlemen in the sport, Stann retires the owner of a 12-6 record and three UFC ‘Fight of the Night' bonuses, the last of which Stann earned in his final fight -- a two-round, tooth-and-nail loss against Wanderlei Silva at the legendary Saitama Super Arena.
"Sometimes it takes losses to make you see things in a different perspective," Stann explained.
"Losing that fight, I invested so much time, I trained so hard for that fight. I never, never saw myself losing, and I lost. Because of who I lost to and when I lost, it was my second loss in a row, it knocked me back down the ladder quite a bit -- out of the top-10 in most people's rankings. It would take a lot of fights to get me back to that level again to where I could compete for the big dollars, the big contracts, get to a title shot and all of those things that ultimately help you provide better for your family. When I look at that and the timeline and the things associated with it, it is not the most intelligent decision for me, as a father, to continue doing it. It's one of those things where I need to look at it -- because my fighting style, I'm not going to change that. It's who I am as a person.
"It's not a healthy fighting style. It's not a fighting style that's going to give you a long career. It's going to give you a career that's about as long as the one that I have. I think the best decision for a guy like me is to walk away at the right time."
Stann never anticipated this moment would come so soon. Prior to his loss to Silva, the former Marine had never even been knocked unconscious. He admits, maybe things would've been different had he won that fight. But over time, as Stann reflected on the sacrifices necessary to thrive in this violent endeavor -- a life away from family and a disregard for personal health -- he grew to realize that this journey could only last so long.
"You do start to notice things as you fight more and more," Stann said. "It's interesting, as I talk to other fighters, early in your career you can take punches in sparring and take punches in fights that don't even phase you. As you do it over time, over time, over time, years and years and years, all of a sudden in sparring, eh, you start to maybe have some headaches here and there. You start to realize, this isn't exactly the best thing for your health. I think there's going to be a paradigm shift in the way mixed martial arts fighters train.
"I have not had any issues with head injuries. I don't have a number of documented concussions, but these are issues that you don't know there's something wrong until there is something wrong. Bringing my third child into the world this fall, my third daughter, it is not a good idea for me to roll those dice. I've had the opportunities to get to the highest levels of the sport and I've fought some of the best fighters in the world, and unfortunately I've lost a bunch of those fights and that has stopped from getting to the level that I would've liked to get to in the sport.
"I do think I could continue, but if I was to continue to try to revamp myself as a fighter, I think I run the risk of possible long term health problems, and that would be very irresponsible of me as a husband and father," Stann continued. "And again, those are always going to be the most important jobs I have."
Stann hopes to remain an ambassador for mixed martial arts, including maintaining his position as an analyst on the UFC's pre- and post-fight shows. It's strangely ironic. For a man who used to dread doing media, Stann's profile within the FOX fold has grown leaps and bounds, to the point where it's extended outside the realm of MMA.
In addition to his work with the UFC, Stann will transition into broadcast booth this fall to call ACC college football games for FOX Sports South. It's a life he never envisioned, but then again, so was fighting. Back in 2008, after losing his WEC light heavyweight championship to Steve Cantwell, before getting that fateful call from the UFC, Stann expected to retire, to "keep moving on with a real job and be a normal person."
"But I had an itch. I still wanted to do it," he reflected. "I never thought I would have an MMA career. I thought I would do a couple amateur fights and be done while I was in the military. The whole time I felt like I was playing with house money. I never thought this would happen."
Through it all, Stann traveled the world, fought legends and entertained millions. He poured everything he had into this sport, and ultimately he leaves with a message to the fans who made it all worthwhile.
"Just, thank you," Stann said in closing. "I'm taking away much more from this sport than I ever gave. Their support, I don't think the fans realize how much the positive reinforcement fuels fighters. With the growth of social media, every single day fighters look at that to get the motivation to into the gym. I can't tell you how many fighters I talk to that'll talk to me in private and say, ‘I'm looking for that motivation again. I'm looking for that fire again.' It's tough. Training is hard, this sport is hard. You look at your Twitter or you look at your e-mail, you look at whatever, and you see these fans that are really patting you on the back and saying, ‘Hey, keep doing it. We enjoy this.' That fuels you, and I just can't thank them enough for that.
"It's incredible when you get to live a life and have a brief moment in time when people supported you like that. Not everybody gets an opportunity, and I have been extremely lucky to be one of the few."
(Editor's note: Watch complete Brian Stann announcement below).