The two victories came only one year and six days after Tanner's debut and pushed his record to 9-1. The rest of his career, the ten years following these two wins, might make the most avid roller coaster enthusiast a little squeamish.
Tanner really has been an interesting guy from the start. He actually began by learning grappling and submission techniques from watching Gracie family instructional videos, and they seemed to be doing the trick. After the 9-1 start Tanner went 14-1 including three wins in the UFC. This gave him a title shot against Tito Ortiz at UFC 30, but at 0:32 of the first round he was KO'd by a slam.
After the tough loss he, for the most part returned to his winning ways in the UFC. Then on February 5, 2005 Tanner won the middleweight belt by stopping David Terrell at UFC 51. Unfortunately, he faltered to Rich Franklin in his first title defense and then lost again. Still, he has reached the pinnacle in the Octagon, but outside of the cage throughout much of his career he's been in a fight with himself.
Tanner's had a bumpy ride. He's battled alcohol and a general self destructive behavior for years. He reaches a peak, only to tumble again and he knows it. Recently in his journal he stated, "I had what some might call a rough beginning in this life. I rose from the bottom on my own merits. I've been to the top and fallen back down many times, sometimes by choice, sometimes because of my own mistakes, and sometimes because of things that were beyond my control. Such is life. I've known greatness, and I've known great failure. It's been an incredible adventure. As before, I find myself at the bottom. Can I rise again?"
The question stems from Tanner's recent self-imposed trials and tribulations. He roamed the country drinking and reached bottom. Then pulled himself together and got a chance to return to the Octagon on March 1st against Yushin Okami almost two years after his last bout. Prior to the fight, as he recovered, he announced "Team Tanner". Instead of taking sponsorship money, he offered the fans a chance to sponsor him. A unique, and maybe insane idea, but some fans jumped on board wholeheartedly.
However, the fight didn't go well. Tanner was KO'd in the second round. Still it was amazing he even fought considering where he was only months before, so in a way he was still triumphant. Then he reported that after the fight he went on a huge gambling spree with the money earned from the bout. Day after day he played until he lost it all! He talked of scrounging for money to purchase bread and was again in sad shape. The roller coaster ride continues.
On this day ten years ago Evan Tanner was victorious in the cage. Now today, April 18, 2008 he is struggling to be victorious in a much bigger game...life. He asked if he could rise again. He probably will, but then one has to wonder, when will he fall? Hopefully one day he will rise and stay.
For more days in MMA History, build up to UFC 83, and other interesting stories check out the blog for the upcoming book, Sports by the Numbers Mixed Martial Arts, by co-author Zac Robinson.