Evan Tanner, a former UFC middleweight champion and one of MMA’s most popular fighters, was found dead in the Palo Verde mountain area of California today.
He was 37 years old.
A friend of Tanner’s told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that authorities have recovered the body. Kyria McBrayer, who also assisted the popular fighter with his “Team Tanner” fan/sponsorship club, said she received the unfortunate news today.
Calls to the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office were not immediately returned, but according to a report from the Imperial Valley Press, a campsite, which included Tanner’s motorcycle, was recently discovered. A sheriff’s deputy found Tanner’s body when searching the mountain’s Clapp Springs area, according to the report.
The cause and other details of Tanner’s death were not immediately known.
Tanner (32-8 MMA, 12-5 UFC), a Texas native who won a state high school wrestling title in 1989, turned an MMA professional in 1997 and began his career with a stellar 19-1 record to earn his way into the UFC.
Tanner, who claimed he learned much of the sport from instructional tapes and DVDs, received his first UFC title shot in 2001 but suffered a quick first-round knockout to then-UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. However, after going 7-1 in his next eight fights and dropping to the middleweight division, Tanner defeated David Terrell for the organization’s vacant 185-pound title in February 2005.
His championship reign would be a short one, though; Rich Franklin defeated Tanner in his very next fight.
After the loss, Tanner fought twice more for the organization before taking a nearly two-year break from competition. During the time away, Tanner began work on a charity to provide a home, training and support system for disadvantaged athletes, but he ultimately scrapped the idea soon after the home opened. Also during the break, Tanner authored a popular blog on his official website that discussed everything from his travels to the restoration of a sail boat to his battle with alcohol addiction.
In November 2007, though, Tanner confirmed he had signed a new four-fight deal with the UFC and was returning to competition. Tanner shunned corporate sponsorships and instead implemented Team Tanner, which allowed fans to sponsor him directly. Fans were rewarded with gear, memorabilia and other items depending on the amount paid.
Tanner fought twice after signing the deal. He suffered a knockout loss to Yushin Okami in March, and in his most recent fight, he headlined The Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale against “TUF 3″ winner Kendall Grove. Tanner lost a close split decision at the June event, and MMAjunkie.com was later told he was trying to fight through injuries at the event.
Just prior to that most recent fight, Tanner became a blogger for Spike.com. The popular online journal chronicled all aspects of his life. His final post was dated Sept. 2.
In an Aug. 16 entry, Tanner discussed his plans to camp out in a California desert as a sort of a spiritual journey. Many readers voiced concern that he expected only to bring the bare necessities.
“I’ve been gathering my gear for this adventure for over a month, not a long time by most standards, but far too long for my impatient nature,” Tanner wrote. “Being a minimalist by nature, wanting to carry only the essentials, and being extremely particular, it has been a little difficult to find just the right equipment. I plan on going so deep into the desert that any failure of my equipment could cost me my life.”
In his final post last week, he talked about training at the Compound MMA camp in Oceanside, Calif., and surfing at the local beach.
We’ll have more on this story as information becomes available.
MMAjunkie.com sends it deepest and sincerest condolences to the family and fellow friends and fans of Evan Tanner.
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