Brian Stann will have an awful lot of backup when he steps into the cage at UFC 130 on Saturday night.
Ultimately, Stann will go one-on-one with Jorge Santiago when the Octagon door shuts, but it will feel like he has the entire U.S. military backing him up this weekend. The significance of the former Marine fighting on Memorial Day weekend is quite important to him.
A decorated military veteran who still works with other veterans on almost a daily basis, Stann carries with him so much pride that he believes it’s truly an honor to get the chance to compete on Memorial Day weekend, and to honor other veterans all over the United States and the world.
“I’m fighting Memorial Day weekend, and it wouldn’t matter who I was fighting, but obviously that’s a big deal to me. There’s no way I could quantify it, to put it that way,” Stann told MMAWeekly Radio. “I definitely have my share of haters out there who get sick of hearing about the military whenever my name is brought up. The thing they don’t realize, I don’t ask people to ask me questions about it. People ask me about it because it matters.
“They wonder why it continually gets brought up, and things like that, but the fact is Memorial Day means a lot to me and every other veteran. Specifically veterans who have held men when they’ve taken their last breaths, who have been brutally and violently killed. When you go through experiences like that, it always stays with you, it doesn’t go away, you don’t get past it, and the best way for me to deal with it is to dedicate any success I have and really live my life in memory of those individuals.”
Stann fights with a purpose whenever he’s in the cage. He grasps the moment whenever people give him the chance to talk about veterans and the non-profit groups he works with to benefit those that have spent time in the military.
For this fight, Stann will be fighting for all the veterans that are honored on Memorial Day, but he’ll also be fighting for a piece of the pie for himself.
At UFC 130, Stann had originally asked to face former Pride fighter and MMA legend Wanderlei Silva. The Brazilian actually turned down the fight because he felt he would be made the bad guy or villain taking on an American hero like Stann.
In the end, Stann believes Silva turning down the fight was a blessing in disguise because now he faces a Top 10 middleweight who could be in the title hunt very soon.
“I don’t think it was any knock on my skill set or my name or anything. I didn’t take any insult towards that. He’s Wanderlei Silva, he can fight whoever the hell he wants,” Stann commented.
“It didn’t happen, and in the end I got, in my opinion, I got a tougher fight. I got a fight that’s better for me. I got a fight where I have a lot less to lose and a heck of a lot more to gain in Jorge Santiago.”
Santiago will be gunning for UFC gold now that he’s back in the promotion, but he’ll also be searching for bit of redemption. The last time he was in the UFC, he was knocked out and released from his contract.
He returns after winning and defending the Sengoku middleweight title, and positioning himself as one of the top 185-pound fighters in the world. Stann realizes all of that, and plans on capitalizing on the opportunity in front of him.
“Jorge Santiago didn’t come to the UFC to fight in the UFC. He came here to go win the middleweight championship,” said Stann. “He relinquished one world title to go win another one. He pretty much cleaned anybody out that they could offer him to fight over there in Japan. He has his sites set on fighting Anderson Silva, and they happened to give him me first.”
If Santiago is looking to build his name in the UFC by beating Stann, the former Marine will have a thing or two to say about that on Saturday night.
“That’s going to be the contest in there,” Stann commented. “Who can impose whose will, and who can execute whose game plan the best.
“I know I’m going out there to make sure that’s me on the 28th.”