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Mixed Martial Arts

Keeping fighting in perspective, Stann takes causes into cage

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The Canadian Press
9/20/2012 11:43:47 AM
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TORONTO -- A look at Brian (All American) Stann's shorts is the first hint that he is no ordinary fighter.

One patch is in "loving memory" of Lou Ruspi Jr., his brother-in-law who committed suicide just before Christmas last year. Another promotes Veterans United, which specializes in loans to veterans. At the back is a promo for the Travis Manion Foundation, in memory of a friend and former marine killed in Iraq.

Stann (12-4) also uses his shorts to promote Hire Heroes, the non-profit organization he presides over as CEO and which searches out jobs for veterans.

The 31-year-old ex-marine faces English middleweight Michael (The Count) Bisping on Saturday at UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. The winner will move up the 185-pound ladder, a step closer to a title shot against Anderson Silva.

Stann has nothing against regular endorsements -- he partners with several nutrition and workout companies as well as a gun store.

Fighting pays Stann's bills. It also gives him a voice.

"I fight. And because of that people stick microphones and cameras in my face, because they're interested in the fight," said Stann.

But his military experiences and events like his brother-in-law's sudden death put things in perspective, as well as serving as a reminder that things are not always as they seem.

"I'm here doing this right now because I want to provide for my family," Stann, a father of two, said of his fighting career. "I want my girls to go to good schools, I want my kids to do gymnastics and play soccer and I want to have them grow up in a world where they don't see some of the violence that obviously I've seen."

Stann has drawn the line recently on discussing his own experiences on the battlefield, specifically the Silver Star he won for his heroics during a six-day firefight in Iraq in 2005.

Stann, who was praised for his "zealous initiative, courageous actions and exceptional presence of mind," says the memories are too personal and painful.

But he says they also put cage-fighting in perspective.

"The worst things that happens in the Octagon is maybe a broken nose, a busted lip. Really the ultimate injury is your pride, that's it.

"But at the end of the day, my wins and losses aren't going to be spoken at my eulogy. At the end of the day it's all about who I am as a man, what's my character and ultimately that's going to depend on how good a father I am and how good of a husband I am. Not how good of a fighter I am.

"But I train very hard because that's part of being a good father -- providing for my family. And fighting in the UFC has provided a great life for my family. And that's why I've chosen to continue doing it."

Still, Stann says he leaves fighting at the door when he returns home. He doesn't answer the phone after six most nights.

A former WEC champion, Stann says he sees the likes of Chris (All-American) Weidman, Tim (The Barbarian) Boetsch and Alan (The Talent) Belcher ahead of him in the current UFC contenders' list.

"I can't let the title eclipse the rest of my life, but it is a big deal. I'm doing this because I want to be champion. If I don't feel like I can be champion, I'm going to go do something else."

The death of Stann's brother-in-law came out of the blue. He was 26.

Stann had to break the news to his wife Teressa as they were preparing to pick up their baggage from an airport carousel en route to the family home for Christmas.

"Great kid," Stann said. "We'll never really understand why we lost him."

Stann's wife and twin sister Karla Farina have started a foundation in their brother's name.

"I couldn't be prouder of my wife and how she's taking such a negative event -- I mean she lost her best friend, that's what her little brother was to her -- and turning it into something positive, " Stann said.

"Just the other night, she was on the phone for an hour with a woman who was thinking about killing herself and called through the foundation. My wife was on the phone with her ... referring her to professionals who can help her and basically telling this women that there's people out there that do care.

"Suicide's a big deal right now."

The Manion Foundation looks to help veterans and their families in overcoming wartime losses or experiences.

Stann served in the military from 2003 to 2008. A former linebacker at the U.S. Naval Academy, he left the marines with the rank of captain.

He tells his story in the 2010 book "Heart for the Fight: A Marine Hero's Journey from the Battlefields of Iraq to Mixed Martial Arts Champion."

He normally trains at Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, N.M., but has opted to hold camp at his home in Atlanta for his last two fights to be closer to his family.

He knocked out Alessio Sakara in April and was slated to fight Hector Lombard at UFC 149 in July but was forced out with a shoulder injury.

"With a sling on, I worked out every single day," he said.

Brian Stann  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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