Former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann made the move to the Ultimate Fighting Championship after World Extreme Cagefighting shuttered its light heavyweight and middleweight divisions in late 2008. Shortly thereafter, he made another move… to Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, N.M.
Several fights later, he calls himself “a staple” of the camp, and hasn’t looked back.
“Each camp I do here in Albuquerque just keeps getting better and better with some of the best fighters in the world,” Stann told MMAWeekly Radio.
His training partners include the likes of Keith Jardine, Jon Jones, Nate Marquardt, Georges St-Pierre, Joey Villasenor, Rashad Evans, and a host of others.
In preparing for his UFC 125 bout with “The Crippler,” Chris Leben, Stann points to one fighter in particular for helping the decorated former U.S. Marine get combat ready.
“My real champion for this training camp has been a guy by the name of Tom ‘Kong’ Watson from over in England. He’s been here for the last two months helping me train,” Stann stated.
“He’s as good a kickboxer as you’re gonna find in MMA. He can go both righty and lefty. He’s got numerous titles and you’ll see him in the UFC very soon.”
Watson has notched a record of 13-4 in mixed martial arts. His only loss a in his last 10 fights was a unanimous decision he dropped to “Ultimate Fighter” alum Jesse Taylor in Canada. So Stann’s talent scouting skills may be something the UFC wants to assess when the 28-year-old’s fighting days are done.
Watson has been a tremendous training partner for Stann, but his striking has been developing ever since the move to Jackson’s. Striking coach Mike Winklejohn has helped Stann up his game in that department, although fight fans haven’t yet witnessed most of the improvement.
“If you look at my second fight with Cantwell where I just I had no foot work, very telegraphic. I only had a few combinations. Now, it’s completely different. I’ve really evolved and utilized the athletic ability that I have.”
Stann is now “that guy” in the gym that many of the other fighters don’t want to spar, but his striking prowess is something he hasn’t been able to display all that much in his most recent fights. He’s mostly been matched up with opponents whose forte is the ground game.
Not so with Chris Leben. If anything, Leben is the antithesis of Stann’s recent opponents, willing to take two punches, just to fire off one of his own. And that’s exactly what Stann wants, a stage to display all the work he’s put in at the Jackson’s camp.
“I absolutely look forward to coming in and showcasing some of those skills that Chris really hasn’t had a chance to see yet.”
Stann and Leben are the co-main event of UFC 125, which features UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar defending his belt in a rematch with the only man to ever defeat him, Gray Maynard.