How quick a year goes by:
Evan Tanner was an utter badass and a true free spirit; no he wasn't one of the absolute all-time greats, but I think he's a Hall of Famer. Here's why:
1. He was one of the best fighters to come out of the first wave of regional MMA events in America. His only peers in this were Josh Barnett, Pat Militech, Jeremy Horn and Heath Herring.
2. He was a UFC champion and a Neo-blood champion in Pancrase back when that really meant something.
3. He was one of the first, if not the first fighters, to combine good wrestling, effective muy thai in the clinch, and good jiu jitsu. More than that he practically invented elbows on the ground. Not cheap ass glancing open a cut elbows either -- Tanner's ground and pound elbows were short sharp shocks that stunned and damaged grounded opponents. Watch his very first UFC fights to see why Tanner's career lasted a decade.
Its noteworthy that he taught himself jiu jitsu and muy thai with instructional videos and books. Combined with his background as a Texas state wrestling champ -- again he was a prodigy, since he didn't start wrestling until 10th grade!
4. He finished fights. Out of 32 wins, only 3 were by decision.
5. He was always game and never gave up. His come back wins against Phil Baroni, Robbie Lawler and Dave Terrell are legendary for a reason. His losses to Rich Franklin showed just as much spirit.
-- Kid Nate talks about one of his (and my) favorite fighters. Evan, you are missed.
A Fighter with a big heart comes to Fort Worth to build a new playground for a low income school:
"Your Cause is a good one." "I will be there," Evan Tanner simply stated.
The playground build was on Saturday, November 3rd. Starting at 8am and ending at 5pm when the playground was completed. Evan Tanner showed up bright and early with a smile on his face and ready to work.
Tanner spent the first part of the day building a rock climb side by side with a parent and some teachers. After that job was done he moved outside to the site and just jumped in and moved from one task to another. Seeing each task completed before he moved on to the next. Not once did he stand still unless it where for a picture with a fan.
"Tanner managed to nearly have a hand in putting together every part of this playground today." "He is amazing." "I have never seen anything like it," said a local volunteer.
After the equipment was up, concrete in, and everything leveled it was lunch time. Tanner had a few minutes to get some food in before he spent his lunch time signing autographs for the 50 or more kids attending. He brought trading cards and gave each child an autographed picture writing something inspirational on each one.
"The ones to my daughters say, Live strong and dream big and Live well, Laugh often, and Love much," revealed a fan.
He also signed a t-shirt here or there upon request. The children seemed to be in awe. He then met with some local heroes out in the parking lot. The local fire department showed up to support the build day. The bunch of heroes took part in getting some autographs as well. Once lunch was over he was back at work moving the mountain of mulch.
"That man is a machine, a human shovel," said a volunteer from a local church.
"I guarantee that Tanner moved a third of that mountain himself!" said a parent and volunteer.
"He brought the same intensity to the playground build that he brings to the octagon," stated a fan.
"He has the most heart of anyone I have ever met, a true inspiration." "Not too many people get to meet someone as humble and giving as Mr. Evan Tanner." "He flew here to work for strangers, for free." "He made this day for the kids even more special than I had hoped for." "It is nice to know that some athletes remember that they can make a difference outside of their sport." "I am Lucky to have met him," declared volunteer and Playground Leader.