Tanner was a special favorite of mine. When he tragically died in 2008 I wrote a eulogy for him. Here's an excerpt:
Evan Tanner was more than one of my favorite fighters, he was a home town hero and a much-admired kindred spirit.
I only got to see him fight live twice, once in Amarillo in 1998 and his UFC debut in 1999. But I followed his career closely from the beginning, always proud of the home-town boy who taught himself jiu jitsu from some VHS tapes and went on to win the UFC championship belt and become a champion in Japan.
I only got to meet Evan once, shaking his hand and back slapping him in a parking lot in Amarillo, Texas after seeing him absolutely dominate an overmatched opponent. But I was more impressed by the way Tanner showed his respect for the guy after the match, raising his arm, talking to everyone in his corner, clearly Tanner saw the man as a brother warrior and not as prey.
That was one thing I always admired about Tanner. He fought for the challenge. He fought to test himself. He was always generous and friendly to opponents. He didn't fight from anger or hatred. He fought as a positive force, a lone man testing himself against the universe. Sadly, that's how he died, too. But he's not alone anymore, now he's part of that infinity he sought.