Once I Was a Champion (2011) Movie Script

In an outward sense,
I have nothing to show.
I have nothing to show, but what I've
been doing is building a foundation.
Now I can build,
you know, my life.
I can build a great work... you know,
a great work of art with my life.
You know, something with meaning,
something that stands for something.
I see this higher purpose
for my life.
I just...
I had a sense of things.
I had a sense of the flow of my life,
the kinds of things that would happen.
Not exactly what would...
what would happen.
I don't know,
I always saw fighting
as a... just a stepping stone to something
to build me into the kind of man
that's gonna be able
to accomplish...
accomplish this... what I'm supposed
to accomplish later in life.
The greatest... the greatest thing
is coming up later.
It's not yet.
everyone around the world.
Once again this is Eddie Goldman
on what is a very sad edition
of no holds barred because
we're doing a tribute
to the late Evan Tanner.
And in breaking MMA news former
UFC champion Mr. Evan Tanner
was found dead
in the deserts of California.
The 37-year-old former UFC fighter
died in the desert east of San Diego.
Police say,
after days of searching...
preliminary reports are heat
exhaustion, according to the autopsy.
He was a puzzle to many,
even those closest to him.
And there is still a puzzle about
the way that Evan Tanner passed.
The motherfucking idiot go
out there without a parachute,
writing a fucking article
for you,
and people that have sat in a sauna
and have spent time in a sauna
cutting weight
know what it feels like.
It's the worst fucking feeling
in the world
when your body goes into dehydration
and your muscles cramp.
They pour so much emotion
into Evan Tanner's death.
It was like, you didn't know
that fucking guy.
You know?
He wrote for you.
He wrote for you.
All these motherfucking fans of his,
all these motherfucking bloggers...
Fuck. Um... God, that's the
fucking worst way to die, man.
He died...
That's how.
What are you gauging
when you talk to people?
I mean, was it... I hate to use the word,
but, I mean, might as well talk about it.
It's like the elephant
in the room.
Was it a suicide mission?
Was he going out there to die?
It bums me out that... you know,
that I don't know what happened or...
'cause that ain't like Evan.
I don't belong to this world
or anyone.
I mean, just... for he to just...
just to live my journey.
I don't belong here.
I can feel
like just my body gonna stay,
but my soul wants
to get out of here.
Who knows what really happens?
You know, if he just, like,
got tired of his life,
you know, jump on the motorcycle, no
gas, no battery, no money, no water.
Like, the guy's...
the guy's not a dumb guy.
You know,
he's a pretty smart guy.
And it just...
it wasn't a smart guy way to go.
As far as intentionally going
out to the desert underprepared,
I think it was
just another challenge for him.
Preparing was not his best, I
guess, because he just liked to go.
I knew him so well,
but... but I, you know,
lost touch with him for so long
that it was like... it just... it
seemed... seemed crazy. It was wicked.
He used to go out
into the wilderness
all the time by himself
and, you know,
go out there
and get his head together.
He liked to be out there.
And so I don't think
anybody really thought
it was that big of a deal
at first.
And then after time started to go, and
then they found out that he had passed.
Was he going out there
to test his body?
Was he going out there
to, like, he had said,
you know, man versus the wild, and,
you know, see who was gonna win?
And, you know, I don't know if he had
intentions of coming back or not.
I mean,
that's the big speculation.
No one will ever know but him.
He had been writing a blog for several
months since his return to fighting
after a layoff,
and a lot of what he wrote
turned out
to be eerily prophetic,
as we take a look now at some of the
samples from Evan Tanner's blog.
Way out
on the windswept desert
where nature favors no man
a buffalo found his brother
at rest
on the sun-baked sand
now the buffalo said
to his brother
what sickness
got you this way?
but his brother never said
'cause his brother
had been dead
been dead
since way last may
way out
in the windswept desert
I heard a big Indian moan
I left my tent
for I knew what it meant
and I swear
I'd never more roam
it was early in the morning
and my eyes started turning
and my legs
were tired and sore
I lost 50 pound
on the hot desert ground
and I'd lose that many more
We were all singing this
in unison
right as my brother was packing
his bags to go into the desert.
There was a time
when... when Evan was missing.
He didn't like... we didn't think
he was kidnapped or ran away.
He just went, like,
on an adventure, went exploring.
And we just thought
that he was gone in...
you know, in the backyard playing in
the tree house or something like that.
And then I guess a
neighbor had called us,
saying, "we found Evan
by himself in the next county. "
He's in another zip code and just,
like, this ten-year-old off exploring.
Evan Tanner, of course, was known
as the UFC champ that he was.
He was a man that just took
to this sport,
starting back in his sophomore
days down in high school in Texas.
He got into wrestling and within a
year was already a state champion.
A lot of people called
him the king of Caprock
'cause Caprock
was his high school.
And a lot of people called him
the king of Caprock
because he was such a nice,
smart, and tough individual
when he left the place.
He was well-respected
and well-known.
I had a computer science class
the beginning
of the semester, and I go,
and everybody sits down,
and, you know, this big guy...
I was the kid
that always liked to sit
in the back of the class.
I was the littlest kid.
I had braces.
I had glasses.
You know.
So I sat
in the back of the class,
and this big guy sits
in front of me with a buzz cut
and a denim jacket, and I kept
hearing the teacher say,
"Evan, Evan,"
and I kept looking up, going,
"is she talking
about Evan Tanner?"
And, all of a sudden,
in the middle of nowhere,
he turns around and says,
"hi, I'm Evan.
Who are you?"
And just starts talking
to me out of the blue,
and the first couple of days,
I was scared to death.
I was, like, just waiting
for the shoe to drop.
Just like, "okay, this guy's
gonna start giving me grief. "
And it never happened.
I mean, from that point on...
then I ended up joining up
with wrestling that year,
and he insisted
I walk to practice with him.
Our high school wrestling coach
was a guy named Jerome Stewart.
Coach Stewart
was this bowtie-wearing,
Clark Kent-glasses guy,
but, you know, he'd get you
out on the mat,
and he could just tear you up.
I mean,
the guy was a great wrestler.
And, you know, it became a drive
of Evan's to...
he wanted to beat
coach Stewart, you know.
And to us, you know, as kids, that
was just like, "okay, whatever.
You know,
good luck with that. "
High school-level wrestler,
and you're talking
about a guy
who's an all-American.
I remember one time
where coach got the best of him,
which you would think
that's a natural thing,
you know,
the guy's experience level,
and I just remember
Evan being in tears.
You know, his goal was to
be an Olympic gold medalist.
When things didn't work out
that way through college,
and when he got a chance to
compete, you know, in the show here
that he went on to own, you know,
he was kind of a natural at it.
He had that wrestling background,
and, once he saw something,
he picked it up.
I met him here
in Amarillo, Texas.
He was running the show that he was
a champion of, called the USWF.
And it was
an open-handed striking company
with... which you can allow kicks
and knees,
and I ran into Evan Tanner
in 1996
after we had a couple of shows,
and I tried to talk him
into fighting for me,
and he was shy, he was even
turning red as a young man.
And I didn't think he was interested,
and a few months later, I got a call
from Evan Tanner, and he was fighting
for me at the beginning of 1997.
And, by the end of 1997, he became
the first USWF heavyweight champion
when we crowned
our first champion,
and he fought
heath herring that night.
There he is.
Down in round six of this
world championship match...
Heavyweight champion
of the world, Evan Tanner.
I was in a tournament, and he fought,
like, one fight later that night.
Probably one
of the best training partners
I had in mixed martial arts
for the next year.
There every day, on time, always learning,
always ready to go, always showed up.
You know, never an excuse.
Never a problem.
Always, no matter what.
He was doing what he had going on,
but, when he was gone, he was gone.
After USWF 16, I decided that I
didn't want to promote anymore,
and Evan was doing
some odd jobs...
laying cable
and doing some different things,
and I got a call from him,
and Evan asked,
"what do you think about me
promoting the USWF?"
So Steve ended up selling it
over to Evan.
Well, Evan, you know,
still wanted to compete,
but he was also intrigued
by the promoting
and thought it would be a good
way he could make a living.
When you're supposed to be getting ready
to fight the main event, you're out
making sure that everything's
going right in the crowd,
you could even be breaking up
a fight in the crowd,
you could... you're handling everything,
you're handling the police,
you're handling
the ticket sales.
Everything that goes on
is your responsibility.
He did everything.
He was so stubborn that he
wouldn't hire a matchmaker.
You know, he did pretty much
most of the sponsorships
with his fianc at the time.
I believe I was the one
constant thing in his life
that he could rely on that
wasn't changing day to day.
So I think he kind of leaned
on me a little bit
to be his wall, his support.
You know, I remember, you know, he was
fighting heavyweight at the time,
and Evan, you know,
I don't think
he ever walked around
or weighed over 205 pounds.
But he's fighting heavyweights.
You know, while guys are in the back
getting ready, you know, he's working.
When it was time to come out and fight,
well, it's time to come out and fight.
Drops what he does, goes
in there, fights, wins.
Afterwards, he's walking around
still in his trunks,
you know, no shirt on,
collecting money from vendors and,
you know, sponsors that came in.
Guy did it all.
If Evan Tanner wanted
to make a lot of money
and acquire a lot of material
things, Evan Tanner was smart.
He could have been a lawyer
or a doctor or do anything
he wanted to be...
a college Professor.
But Evan Tanner chose
to be a fighter.
Bas, you know Evan well?
Yeah. I... you know,
I was fighting
with him in Japan.
He was at Pancrase.
And that's where I met him.
He was actually the only guy who
out-drank me... Sorry.
And, after a party...
after a fight,
we all went celebrating, and we
came home at 7:00 at night...
in the morning actually,
and we went to sleep.
9:00 in the morning
we had to go to a special
press conference or something,
and, when I woke up, everybody was trashed,
but Evan was standing there with his beer.
He says,
"Bas, do you want one?"
I say, "okay,
you beat me right now. "
That story every time came up
we would meet each other.
And I remember saying to him, I
said, "you got to take it easy. "
I said, "you can be the UFC champion,
but it's not gonna happen overnight. "
He said,
"when can I go to Japan?"
I said, "well, we're gonna have
to find out.
Let me keep working on it. "
Japanese reporters, they
were coming to the USWF fights.
They saw Evan Tanner.
So I used my connection with the
reporters to talk to Pancrase.
And Pancrase,
for people who don't know that,
was the leading mixed martial
arts organization in Japan.
The rules
that they had in Japan
were kind of adapted
kind of for the Japanese guys,
with open-hand strikes,
so no gloves.
That was good
for the submissions.
They wanted you to wear shoes
and shin protection.
Their main strengths from the
Japanese has always been the ground.
And they're really
good with leg locks.
Having shoes, you know, shin protection,
takes the power away from the kicks.
Very good for their leg locks.
It was all adapted.
Well, finally Pancrase
gave us a call and said,
"we would like to have
Evan come over here
"and stay for three weeks,
and we'd like to enter him
in the Neo-blood tournament,"
which is a tournament they have for
new guys coming into Pancrase.
A lot of times,
the Japanese would bring guys in
that kind of had a kind of tough guy
reputation but just to break 'em.
I was a little worried
about his match
against I believe it was agi... his
real name is Yanagisawa Ryushi.
He was a real tough guy.
First day, I told Evan, "we're
all gonna go into Yokohama
"and, you know,
go see a movie and hang out.
You want to come?"
He's like, "no, I'm just gonna
jump on a train and go. "
And I ain't kidding you, man.
This guy put on his backpack
and jumped on another train,
and we didn't see him anywhere.
And the next thing you
know, we're showing up
to training, and we're,
like, all freaked out.
And there he is.
At the Dojo, which is also
a very difficult place to find,
you know, training.
He ended up going all over
Japan in one week's time.
In certain aspects
of Evan's life,
I think that there was a tremendous
amount of fear of things,
but I think in certain aspects,
like being adventurous
in the world,
he had no fear whatsoever.
I just want to thank everyone.
I've really enjoyed
my stay here in Japan.
I feel very fortunate
that I got a chance
to come over here
and fight in Pancrase.
Looking forward
to coming back in September.
I hope to see you then.
When you win, they encourage you really
to be flamboyant about your win.
They want you...
it wasn't a disrespectful thing.
It was, you know, if you won,
they wanted you to be, "aahh!"
He wouldn't do it.
He'd just kind of get out
of the ring, you know,
get his hand raised, and...
I'd go, "hey, dude, you need
to sell yourself there. "
He'd like, "all right,
I'll do it next time. "
Next time he wouldn't do it.
Evan Tanner had a contract already
faxed to me that they wanted him
to fight in three months the
king of Pancrase Semmy Schilt.
And we agreed to fight him.
And at the same time
ultimate fighting,
John Peretti had offered him
a fight
if he were to fought...
him and Wanderlei Silva fought,
the winner would fight
Frank shamrock for the title.
Well, Evan and I are sitting
by the swimming pool,
and we're just out there alone,
and all of a sudden he sits up,
and he says, "I need you
to do something for me,"
and I said, "what?"
And he said,
"I need you to cancel
those fights for me. "
I said, "you mean your Pancrase
world championship fight
"and your opportunity to fight
Wanderlei Silva "and Frank shamrock?
You want me to cancel this?"
And Evan said, "yes. "
He said, "I don't feel
"like I have the fire
in me that I need
to beat these guys right now. "
He said, "maybe later,"
he said, "but for right now,
I want to stop fighting
for a little while. "
You know, that was a real shock to me,
but that was typical Evan Tanner.
In some ways, Evan didn't...
he didn't like fighting.
I mean, there was one point
where... where he was talking
about going back and going back to
work for AT&T, stringing cable,
which was amazing,
'cause he was very talented.
I mean, he would be the first one
to tell you he wasn't a fighter.
He told me when we first met, he's
like, "I'm not a fighter, man.
"It's just something that I do.
It's just something I got into. "
Man, I never bought that
for one minute.
Okay? You know, if Evan Tanner wasn't
a fighter, there isn't a fighter.
Okay? There's never been a fighter
if Evan wasn't a fighter.
That... that was part
of his confliction.
He felt there was a stigma
attached to being a fighter.
And I don't know what it is.
I think he liked to fancy himself more
as an intellect and a philosopher,
and, you know, just the fact
that, I guess,
if you are a fighter,
there's all these stereotypes
out there of what a fighter is.
He comes into the UFC,
becomes one of the best fighters
in the world in his weight division,
you know, a world champion.
What would Evan's life have
been like without fighting?
Who would Evan Tanner have
been if there was no fighting?
One of the funniest things was
when he told me that he wanted
to be a monk, and
I said, "Evan,"
he was the USWF world champion,
I said,
"you are not gonna leave
and go be a monk. "
I said, "you are
the USWF world champion. "
I said, "you're gonna be the
toughest monk "in the entire planet.
So how can you be a monk?"
I said, "that is not
for you right now.
"Go be a monk later " when you're
not the USWF world champion,
"because right now I need you, and
I don't want you to go anywhere. "
I'm in his guard,
he's on bottom,
I feel him getting up, and I'm thinking,
"oh, man, he's trying to get up.
"He's gonna kill me once he gets up
'cause I can't do anything right now. "
And it was so funny, that little
voice in the back of your head,
I heard it give me a warning, and
I hear... it just told me, "run!"
So I'm in this cage, this
30-foot-diameter cage
in the UFC,
and Evan Tanner's getting up
from the bottom, and
the only thing in my mind is,
"I need to start running," so I get up,
and I start running, and he catches me.
Evan didn't fight
because he liked to hurt people.
He didn't fight
because, you know, he was angry.
Evan fought for competition.
Evan fought because he actually
enjoyed seeing if he could impose
his will on somebody else that was
trying to impose their will on him.
I remember watching the fight,
Evan was...
I can't remember what fight it was,
but he was mounted on top of a guy,
and this was before I fought
in the UFC.
And he was hitting the guy,
hit him a couple times,
and then it was almost like
as if he slowed down
a little bit, and then
the referee stopped him,
and he just kind of put
his hands up like,
"yeah, I'm done," you know, and
maybe, like, stuck his hand out,
like, you know,
"are you okay?"
Like, almost double-checking
on his opponent to make sure
that... that he was okay.
I think that there was
just some genuine care
on his side of things
for another individual.
Well, I spent 17 years
in a pro fight career, you know.
My success was at the loss
of somebody else.
Well, I think, the one thing that
I think Evan was looking at is,
"how do you make it win-win?"
We would discuss
the 100 monkey theory.
There is islands off Japan where
there's these little monkeys.
And the monkeys
are all the same breed,
but they live on
these different islands, right?
So there's no communication
with them.
And they all eat this root.
They dig this root up,
and they eat it.
And the scientists
were following these monkeys,
and they noticed
that this one baby female monkey
started taking the root to the
water, washing it off before eat it,
wouldn't eat it
with the dirt on it.
Some other monkeys
in her tribe started doing it.
After a certain point,
there was a tipping point,
they call it the 100th monkey,
they don't really know
if it was 100 monkeys that did it,
but they said that, this tribe,
all the monkeys
started washing the root.
They never did it before.
100 monkey theory was a big conversation
with him, and I believe it.
I believe that he thought
that the power of one
could influence enough people
that hits a tipping point,
that everybody does it.
Becoming a champion,
being a well-known fighter
was a way
for his word to get out,
you know, to teach people
to help people.
If he had the belt around his
waist, people would listen to him,
people would be paying attention
to him.
And it was a platform
from which he could speak.
"Everything's been
about the journey.
"I never really set out
goals "for fighting.
"This has been about the
adventure "along the way.
"When you're on your death bed,
it's those stories,
"those little adventures,
that are going to be
"the things that you remember.
"It's not so much getting
there but how you got there. "
Evan called me up in Oregon and
said he was, you know, interested
in changing his training and
taking it to a different place.
He didn't really have a team.
He didn't have
a good training environment.
Everything he'd learned he said
he'd learned from books.
He didn't just come out and train.
He just moved out here, kind
of rolled into town one day
in... he had
a little pickup.
He said he didn't have
a place to stay.
And he bounced
around a couple people's houses,
and then he said he was gonna stay
here, so I think we put a camper
out in back of the gym.
He stayed at my house
for a few weeks,
but he just really was not comfortable
staying at somebody else's.
He felt like a burden and
just... just could not relax.
Kept to himself.
And he was reading
all the time.
I'd be like,
"dude, what are you reading?"
"Moby Dick. "
He had this book club
that he was in that sent
these leather-bound,
kind of gold-trimmed books
to him,
you know, every month.
And he was reading
all the classics.
I mean, that's all he did.
He'd train and go
to his room and read.
And it wasn't
like he was a big problem,
but he just didn't feel comfortable
in being in somebody else's space.
Just thought I would point
to the piece of real estate
that used to be occupied
by Evan Tanner.
There's actually a trailer
in the back now.
Now this is not the trailer
Evan stayed in.
Just coincidentally
there's a unit.
Now with this trailer in mind,
that's only a couple steps down
of what Evan was staying in.
Evan's did have walls on it and some
type of a couch or a carpeted floor,
but, you know, it wasn't...
it wasn't
what you would... you would
picture a professional athlete
to be staying in,
let's put it that way.
And he stayed there
for quite a while.
I can't remember how long,
but I'd be surprised if it
wasn't at least three months
that that's
what he called home.
When I ended up going
to train at team quest,
he was... I think
he just got an apartment.
They were making fun of him,
the guys there,
because, before that, he lived
in a... in a van or something.
They called him...
in a sort of van in the back,
and they called him the camel
'cause he didn't need nothing,
no water, no nothing.
He was just kind of a,
you know, tough guy,
a loner-type guy, and he just
slept... slept in the van.
I said, you know,
"fuck that, dude.
I ain't sleeping
in no van. "
I slept in the gym.
We got into it one time,
You know, we started going... it
turned into, like, a real fight.
Evan and Baroni
were sparring with each other,
and I could... you have a sense
of the energy
when there's guys sparring
around you.
And all of a sudden, I felt
this big step up in the energy.
You could hear the thuds
and the thwacks getting louder.
And it caused me to stop and, you
know, say, "hey, we're sparring.
You guys cut it out. "
'Cause they were... it was
escalating, one tit for tat.
And then sure enough, you know, Evan
listened, and he backed back down.
Well, Phil didn't.
And Phil caught him with a good
body shot and doubled Evan over.
And, you know, it kind
of culminated in a little bit
of a, you know, a ruckus that Phil
had kind of cheap-shotted him,
in Evan's opinion.
But I think that that was
something that came up again
because Evan and Phil
fought each other.
And to be honest, at the time, I was
really confident I would beat him,
so I was like, "okay, yeah, I'll
take this fight. Free money. "
I wasn't sure he would.
When I saw him at the hotel, I was
definitely trying to mean-mug him
and intimidate him a little bit,
but, you know, he's a tough guy,
and he's not gonna be intimidated by
anybody, so it didn't really work.
What... whatever.
That was my M.O. At the time.
But, you know, I was confident
going into the fight
that I was definitely...
definitely gonna smash him.
And, you know, it didn't work
out, but wanted a rematch.
I felt
like I definitely beat him.
I thought it was a bad stoppage
in the fight.
I thought it was... you know, I
thought I would definitely...
I would definitely beat him,
but he changed some things up.
That fight didn't go well
for me either.
I think there was maybe
a little false sense
of security there
on Phil's part.
Ultimately, I think
Evan had the last laugh.
You know, it just goes
to stand how good he was.
So it helps me not feel as bad
losing to him twice, you know.
Again, he had talked
about getting out of fighting,
and we're like, "dude, how else are
you gonna make "30 grand at a pop?
"You got a bunch
of financial issues.
"You're gonna lose your house.
"You know,
all this stuff going on.
Why wouldn't you take
another fight?"
There's no way Evan Tanner's
gonna win this fight.
There's no way Evan Tanner's
gonna win this fight.
Evan's awesome.
Evan's the big underdog.
When he fought David Terrell, he
had told me that he got the call
I think it was
two or three weeks' notice.
They called him
out of the blue.
He was in a bar,
and they offered him
a world championship fight,
and he was like, "yeah. "
- Anyways, I think
about 3:00 that morning,
he calls me, and he tells me
he's lost in the woods.
So I tell him, I said, "well,
"you need to tell me,
you know, where you're at,
"or, you know, look around,
"see if you can see something
I can identify with,
I'll come get you. "
It's like he starts looking
around, and he goes,
"I see a library. "
I said, "where were you at?"
He tells me the name
of some bar.
Been walking for three hours.
You could literally take a rock and
throw it from that bar to that library.
You know, he was just walking
around in circles.
And it's cold.
So I pull into the library, and I
don't see him, so I honk my horn,
and out from this trash can
comes Evan
with his long...
you know, his hair,
and he's just got
this mad look on his face,
and so I end up putting him in
the car, and I take him home.
And he told me... he was like, "well,
I'm not gonna take the fight.
"I'm too, you know,
I goofed off too much.
There's no way
I can get in shape in time. "
I knew the ins and outs.
It was always hard to go,
"oh, did he do this?
Did he do that?"
And try to run
through a checklist
in my head of, was he prepared?
I kind of used
some of his words against him.
I said, you know,
"you always say
"that, you know,
believe in the power of one,
"believe in yourself, and,
regardless of the circumstances,
"if you believe
in something enough,
that, you know,
you can overcome it. "
'Cause I'd already bought
my tickets.
And so anyways, he thinks
about it, and, you know,
he's like,
"I'll think about it. "
Well, he's driving back to Oregon,
and he's calling me in hotel rooms,
says he's doing plyometrics and
push ups, trying to get in shape.
He thinks he's gonna take
this fight.
So Dave Terrell's a huge deal,
you know, Cesar Gracie
black belt, very highly touted,
considered to be a phenomenon in the
UFC in the middleweight division.
You know,
a guy who is undefeated.
There was a ton of hype
around him,
and he had knocked out Matt Lindland,
you know, who, at the time,
people perceived as one of the
top guys in that division.
Evan was probably a big underdog
in that fight.
Evan trained with me at my gym
at the evolution fight club.
He... he was kind of bouncing
around to some boxing gyms.
Curtis Crawford
was his boxing coach.
This is Tanner...
Evan Tanner's bag.
It's called his bag because
it's beat up to death, you know.
I was teaching him more of like,
you know,
a kind of an in-and-out style,
you know what I mean,
like, in and out, in and out,
you know, get in and get out,
get his punches in
and get out
and stuff like that.
You know, so we had
to work a little different.
And so Evan had two left feet.
You know, I was trying
to get his feet together.
He stumbled for a while.
You know what I mean?
So I'm trying to get him back and
forth, man, do stuff like this.
This is his rope here.
This is the same rope he used.
This is what Evan did every day.
Every day.
You know why?
I was trying to get him to work
beyond his two left feet.
Evan Tanner. On my way
for victory right here.
Tanner, how do you feel, baby?
Beginning of the battle.
The toughest thing
about Evan was his top game.
You know,
once he got on top of you,
you felt like he was 500 pounds,
throwing elbows down at you,
and you can't get him off.
Those are one of the things that
I tried to have him implement
in his fight,
in his title fight.
He goes, "Dave Terrell
was pretty dangerous. "
And I said, "you got
to watch out for that guy.
"He comes out explosive.
"And so what you want to do
is be careful
'cause he comes out...
he's gonna come out wild. "
That's what I told Evan
the first time.
I said, "this guy's gonna come
out wild when you fight him. "
The soul assassin,
David Terrell!
I'm trying to remember
what he said.
He's like, "I knew if I moved
around the ring
"and did nothing,
the crowd would start booing,
and it would cause him
to make a mistake. "
- Fighting out of Gresham, Oregon...
- Here we go.
Evan Tanner!
He beat...
he put it on David Terrell
two minutes into the fight,
just jumped on him.
You know, remember that?
Just, Bam, was on him
and just never came off and never
gave the kid a second to breathe.
And Evan... Evan is the wrong
person to have on top of you
when he starts throwing bombs, and he
just started elbowing and punching.
I just kept in his face,
"keep hitting him.
"Keep hitting him.
He doesn't like that.
He doesn't like that.
He's hurt, he's hurt. "
And I'm just screaming,
and ref jumped in
and stopped it, man, and I was
over the cage and picking him up.
We just kind of like, "hum. "
You know what I mean?
Like, relaxed.
Big pressure off his shoulder.
It was nice, you
know, to have that.
The new UFC...
And finally Evan Tanner
gets his due.
And he is the middleweight
champion of the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Evan Tanner.
Yeah, it may sound crazy,
but this is the part
that makes me even more nervous
than even stepping out in the ring,
having to get up here and talk.
Got out there tonight,
things went my way.
That's great.
Won the fight.
I don't even know what to say
I'm so happy about that.
Definitely want to thank
all the fans.
You know, it's the fans that make
this... make this happen, you know,
so thanks, everybody.
The celebration
was like a big bang.
It was a nice, big party.
Dana white just guested for the
big party on down the stairs.
And he gave big hugs,
"hey, man, thanks, you know,
for all the help, you know," and we
just, you know, hung out like that.
He didn't really celebrate much.
When you go in and see a
fighter after a fight, okay,
whether they win,
they're either the type
that are just going crazy backstage,
you know, they're so pumped up,
or they lose, and they're
the exact opposite.
They're so angry or depressed,
and you never got either one of
those emotions out of... out of him.
Evan was, in our relationship,
he was very quiet.
He wasn't very emotional, I would say,
as far as telling me his feelings.
We never told each other
we loved each other.
For... for years, several...
I mean, 71/2 years.
And most people would look at
that and say, you know, "why?"
And he didn't have
to tell me, I guess.
I just knew.
That's just how he was.
He just didn't share his feelings
or emotions with words so much.
Even after, like, he won
the UFC world title,
you know, I was around him, and, you
know, he would say things like,
"what does that mean?
"That doesn't mean anything.
"What does it... who cares?
"You know, we're just
a tiny, little grain of sand
on a beach in this whole time. "
You know, that's how...
that's how he thought.
He was very intelligent, and
I think it was a strength,
but I think that also
was a weakness of his.
'Cause he... he liked
to overanalyze everything.
Like, "what does it all mean?"
You win the world title.
What are you doing?
You're going,
"yeah, I'm the champ. "
I mean, there is no low.
But even pretty much right after he
won it, he was just like, "so what?
What... so what?
What does it mean?"
Well, right there, you know
something's not right.
Evan got into drinking a lot,
and I think Evan always had.
You know, I think
when he left Amarillo
and came here in the first place,
he was trying to escape that
and kind of turn over
a new leaf.
He just never really cared
too much for Amarillo,
and I think a lot of it had to do
with... with him more than Amarillo
because, you know, he found the
same problems anywhere he went.
He just... I'd tell him, "you
just can't blame Amarillo.
"You know, you found
the same problems in Vegas
and California
and Oregon. "
Super hard to be an alcoholic
and be the champion of MMA.
I mean, it's just a testament
to how talented he was
and how much further he could
have gotten if he wasn't.
We were at a bar
called Gaspanic,
and, I don't know,
I guess I was probably
20, 30 feet
from him maybe, you know.
I'm sitting there watching him,
and he orders...
he lines up
these really big shooters
of patron Tequila and
about six of them.
And I thought, "oh, wow, cool,
he's buying us patron shooters. "
He wasn't buying 'em
for anybody but himself.
And I sat there
and literally watched him
drop all six patron shooters,
just boom, boom, boom.
He did... actually he did
all six of those,
and then I saw him... I think he did
another six maybe an hour later.
I never seen anything like it.
The amount of alcohol he put
down that night was scary.
This is before the fight, and, you
know, he went in there and won.
It wasn't like he seemed
affected by it.
He opened up a great deal,
you know.
Evan might have said... you know,
ten words up to that point,
you know what I mean, to me, maybe
a little bit more, you know.
But that night,
you know, he opened up,
he was grabbing guys
in headlocks, you know,
he was a lot more relaxed.
You know what I mean?
For the most part,
when he was drinking,
he was actually kind
of the funnest to hang out with.
I don't know
if that's good to say,
but I don't want people to bullshit
about how he is or make him out
to be perfect, you know,
just because he was known.
You know, I want it to be...
I would like it to be told
how he really is,
without any B.S.
I told him, I said,
"look, I'm your friend,
and I'm not your drinking buddy,
so I won't drink with you,"
so I wouldn't drink
with him no more.
I wouldn't drink beers
with Evan.
And that pissed him off
a little bit,
but, you know,
it is what it is, you know.
I've been to bars,
went to get him,
pull him out of bars.
He'd slap me in the face.
You know, but then he got
emotional about it, you know.
You know,
and that was the sad part
about Evan, you know, was... he
was really, really struggling.
He was really... but if you tried to
put out a life preserver for him,
then he was Evan, you know,
Evan the warrior.
"I don't need help.
I don't need your help. "
I just told him, "listen, man, I don't
think "you'll ever quit drinking.
"Maybe one day, you know,
I was always afraid
"I was gonna get that call that,
you know, they found you dead
"of alcohol poisoning or, you know,
choked to death on your own vomit. "
And I said, "I'm pretty sure
I'll get that call one day
'cause I don't think
you'll ever quit. "
I said, "but I just don't want
to get that call
"that you killed a family of four on
the way back from a movie theater. "
I said, "you know,
it's not about you anymore.
"You know, your drinking's
affecting other people,
"maybe directly or indirectly, " but
nothing good's gonna come out of it,
and I don't think
you'll ever change. "
If I was to try to sum up Evan
with a word, it'd be really hard,
and I want to be careful too
because, you know, one word that
really comes to mind is "selfish. "
But I don't want to say selfish, you
know, when the gentleman is passed,
and it's almost like, well, I'm
putting him in a negative light.
A lot of great athletes
are selfish.
That's one
of their top characteristics.
Evan worried about Evan.
Evan did what even wanted to
do when Evan wanted to do it.
And that made it...
that made it tough
to get to know him
but also to like him.
You know, selfish isn't
necessarily a quality
that you're looking for
in a friend,
though it is a good quality
to have if you're gonna be
an athlete that has to take care
of number one.
You know, you talk about Chael
and team quest,
you know,
it's not a team sport.
Those guys have a team, and people
help you get ready for your fight,
and, in turn, you're supposed to
help them get ready for their fight.
Down the road,
that became kind of a rub,
especially, you know,
after he kind of won that title
and we were kind of in a negotiation
for, you know, he'd owed some money,
and there were some different
things hanging out there
that needed
to kind of be settled up
and how that was gonna work,
you know,
with the gym and with
the other guys in the gym.
I have an email
actually on that.
He wrote me back, "hope
your Christmas went well.
"Ours was good.
Training is going well.
"I have officially left
team quest.
"Money issues...
the issue being
they thought they were entitled
to a percentage of mine. "
It wasn't about any money,
Because Evan didn't care
about any money, okay.
But Evan's opinion of that was, "guys,
I helped literally build this gym.
I put the rafters up. "
Yeah, Evan didn't want to pay for
something that he felt he helped create.
Evan had showed up to
training on a few occasions
liquored up, smell...
you know, smelling like beer,
and, you know, we go hard.
Instead of asking him to,
you know,
slow down the drinking
or to, you know, curb it,
it got to the point
where it was just like,
"you know,
here's what we expect.
"And if you don't want
to do that,
you know, then it's probably
time for you to go. "
It wasn't what I expected.
I expected him to say, "oh, okay,
you know, "I'm willing to step up
and be a part of the team
and contribute. "
And it was like,
"yeah, you're right.
I'm pretty selfish, and I'll
just go do my own thing. "
I was kind of on my own
since I was...
in a sense
since I was in eighth grade.
You know, I had to...
you know, I made sure
I put myself
through the rest of junior high,
through high school,
got myself into college.
You know, I did my own laundry.
I just had to take care
of myself.
Him and his family, you know, his
mom kind of checked out on him,
and, from a very,
very early age,
they took care of themselves.
They had to.
So I think that lone wolf,
kind of all-alone mentality
came from that, a lot of it.
To speak to the specific timeline
of Evan, when he was with Curtis
and he beat Dave Terrell
and won
the world championship,
he was still at team quest.
He was just also with Curtis.
This is not a knock on Curtis, but
when he left quest and went solely
in a different route and he
lost the team quest aspect,
he lost the championship.
So he fought Terrell,
and he won.
I don't think he trained very
hard for the Franklin fight,
the next one, you know,
'cause then he had Franklin
right out of the chute.
I remember that he dropped me
in the first round.
I don't remember getting dropped
at the time
because, you know, Evan did have,
like, one good, heavy right hand,
and so, for whatever reason,
I perhaps made
the adjustments and whatnot, but
I do remember that it just...
it was like he was going back
to the same thing, you know.
He was going back to the well,
and the well was dry.
It just wasn't there
for him anymore.
Halfway through the fight, looking at
Evan's face and going, "oh, my God. "
You know, his face was all swollen
up, and his eyes were swollen.
He took a pretty bad beating
from rich in that fight.
He told me stories of getting
hit and his whole bottom tee...
like, a row of teeth
getting pushed back
in his mouth,
and then he had to stick...
push 'em back out
with his tongue in that fight.
I mean, I threw a lot of punches,
and it was just like... like, I hit...
I felt like I hit Evan with
everything but the kitchen sink,
and he just would not go away.
He was determined that he
was going to win that fight.
The winner of that fight would head
straight to Las Vegas the next day
and be the coach for season two
of the ultimate fighter,
which, you know, at the time, now
when you look back at rich Franklin,
that really turned rich Franklin
into a huge star.
So it was a big fight
for both of those guys.
And going into that fight,
I honestly had no idea,
you know, who would win.
That was a tough fight, but
then, you know, it was a fight
that rich Franklin
absolutely dominated.
I asked him how he was doing, and
this is what he wrote me back.
"You know, you asked
how I've been.
"I couldn't honestly say
that I've been well.
"I've been on the road
for almost a year,
"sleeping in spare bedrooms,
on couches,
"on the floor,
"wherever I could.
"I've been constantly
running, "searching.
"I was with a woman
for seven years,
"we were engaged to be married,
I came home one night,
"and there were trucks
outside the house
"and strange men
loading up all her things.
"I'd sold all of my furniture " when
she and I started living together,
"so when she left,
she left me in an empty house.
"I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't eat.
"All I do is pace
around the house
"at night looking at
the impressions in the carpet
"where the couch sat,
where the bed was placed,
"where everything used to be, " a
constant reminder of what used to be.
I left that house. "
He used to love to be by himself,
and he was kind of a loner.
You know, for a while there,
I remember when he first started
fighting in the UFC,
he had a girlfriend, a cute girl
that he used to date or whatever,
and she was...
she was around for a while,
and then...
and then I never saw her again.
I think I changed who I
was when I was with him.
I really... I don't know who
he really, in his life,
who was the most important to him
or who he cared a lot about.
I would say, from what
wade has told me,
that I might have been
one of the main things
in his life, who he cared about,
but it's hard for me to say that
because I honestly
never heard him tell me that,
so... - You know, you find out the
day that him and Danita split up,
and you'll see a different...
I had told him about the alcoholism,
that it would need to stop.
It was really affecting us in
our physical relationship,
our emotional relationship,
our financial relationship.
After so many years
of trying to encourage him
to leave that part of his life,
it was really hard because it
never did... it never went away.
The last time I spoke with Evan,
he had invited me for lunch,
and I had already moved out
of the home,
several weeks had gone
by, and I met him.
We sat down and talked
about everything,
and he basically said, "if this
is the decision you want,
we will be over, and this
is the last time we'll speak. "
And I said, "okay.
That's what I want. "
It was traumatic, you know,
that he had found somebody
that he wanted to treat better because
she deserved to be treated so well,
and he couldn't...
he couldn't figure out
how to do it
until it was too late.
He, you know, went
wherever Evan went.
You know, Texas or who knows
where he went or any of that.
And he got a new group,
you know, a group...
a new corps of people
around him,
and he was... and he got another
fight with Justin Levens.
"I accepted the fight
at UFC 59.
"It gave me focus for a time, " but
afterwards there was nothing.
"I fell into a deep depression, " and
I traveled all over the country
"trying to run from it.
"Some would say
it was a wasted year.
"They've said that. But, in this
year, I have begun to write again. "
I was like, "oh,
we should celebrate tonight,
"you know? You guys want to go to a
club and celebrate his victory?"
As we're leaving the parking lot
of UFC.
"And then, you know,
we get some drinks,"
and he screamed loud,
It's like, the guy just won a fight
that he was all quiet about it.
And then he mentions...
he's like, "oh,"
like, very, very quiet, he said,
"oh, we can have a drink. "
And then from there, you know,
it didn't work out very well
no more, but...
Drinking his Tequila, you know, like
it was Gatorade and stuff, you know.
And, at one point,
he was sitting in the bench
in my garage,
and he was so much in alcohol
for, like, three, four days
that... that, you know,
it was, like,
blood coming out and stuff.
I never seen nothing like that.
It was sad, you know, man.
We even tried to put water
in his bottles, you know.
He was like, "hey, you guys
trying to trick me?"
I was like, "can you stop
drinking and stop it?"
He would never stop.
I think those couple years
of drinking
were like... those 2 years were
probably more like 10 or 15 years.
He put a lot of alcohol down.
It made it hard for him
to keep relationships.
He was a little...
he was a little transient.
I don't know if... you know, that's
not something I can... I can notice.
You know, it's... you know,
looking from the outside,
maybe someone else could notice
something like that.
I'm, like, so immersed
in my own world
that, you know, I can't see
what different effects
it might have than somebody that
has a different type of life.
But, yeah, my whole life
I've been traveling,
you know, moving around,
been a searcher and a seeker,
you know, and, you know, that
permeates every aspect of my life.
I mean, my... I mean, everything I
do, you know, that kind of mindset
or that state of mind,
you know.
It's the underlying tone
for anything I do in life.
He basically had told me, you
know, growing up, that he had had
a rough childhood, things like that,
and he had chose to distance himself
from family and friends
and that life.
I think... I couldn't speak
for how much the alcohol
drove away his previous friends
and stuff
'cause, like I said, by the time he got
to me, he pretty much was a loner.
The last time
we were together, you know,
he was on my couch for three,
four months, you know.
And he's cool with that. I'm
like, "yeah, you don't mind?"
"No. " You know.
And but he was drinking and,
you know, had his computer,
and that's how he kept in touch
with the world, you know.
You know, he wasn't...
like I said, he wasn't a talker
or nothing like that,
but he could write.
He could write, man.
One of the happiest I saw him
was whenever he found MySpace.
You know, I think being able
to use that notoriety
from fighting to actually
have people be interested
in what he had to say, I think
that's what he really liked.
Every time that Evan Tanner
had a blog,
it was an interesting occasion,
you know?
Always out of left field.
You never knew
when he was gonna post 'em.
I still go online and...
and talk to fans and stuff,
and Evan was definitely one of the
only guys that also did that.
I don't know why we both did
that kind of thing.
'Cause 90% of the time, you're gonna
hear, you know, not good stuff.
Maybe, I think,
in the kind of detached sense
that the Internet
and all that created,
it created some sort
of safety for him,
where he felt okay to kind
of let... let a lot of that out.
And I guess what... what's bothersome
is to feel like you're a friend
with somebody,
and you're there,
and you... you want to establish
a personal contact
and connect with somebody, and
you can never get through.
He really found an outlet
of people that were reaching out
and saying, "jeez, this is
wonderful," and "this is great. "
And I think a lot of that
was just assumed.
I think a lot of people
go, "well, this guy's
"a world champion.
I've seen him on TV.
"He's a successful guy.
If he's saying this,
this must be insightful. "
And it...
it wasn't.
It was absolute ramblings.
And if you break... I mean,
if you've ever read a book,
if you've ever gone
to a course,
if you've ever heard
an intelligent person talk,
you'd know what he was saying was
not from an intelligent person.
He had a great vocabulary.
Anybody that talked to him,
you know,
uh... he was just such
an articulate guy, and he was
such a thought-provoking
And, uh, I think he would have
written a great book.
And so I would encourage him, I'd
say, "Evan, you have a great voice. "
You know, "there's a great
vision in the way you speak. "
You know... you know,
"you're very visual. "
You know, "when you talk,
I can see what you're
"talking about.
That's a real talent.
"Got to develop that talent.
Use it more.
Write more, write more. "
I always found something
to be very interesting about him
in the way that Ernest Hemingway
talks about the grindstone theory...
that if you have a pen
that's dulled from writing,
but you've never lived
your life,
then you have nothing
worth writing about.
You could be the best
technical writer there is,
but if you have no stories to tell
with your pen, there's no sense in it.
Some of it feels very poetic, like,
um, almost like prose, you know?
Some of these...
Oh, thanks.
Yeah, then you quote...
you quote some people,
and, uh, you've got some
big heroes in literature,
but just the way your style
of writing, it's very honest.
- Thanks. - I was telling John,
I'm surprised there wasn't, uh,
like, Hemingway wasn't
in some of your heroes
because you... you have
a little bit of that too.
For Evan, he...
he did write his stories
for a reason, and, um,
I think he would have wanted
people to know how his life was
and what he learned and accomplished
from that, from his writings.
I don't think most people
write down everything they do,
um, unless they anticipated
someone wanting
to know that story.
I was reading his blogs, uh,
'cause he had a public page.
So I was reading his blogs,
and then I befriended him,
and I sent him a message,
um, briefly explaining who I was
and how his blogs impacted my life
and... and what I wanted to do
with my life
and how there was
some similarities there.
And just, you know,
just normal stuff,
and then he, uh, he responded
to me about a month after that.
I was in a bad spot in my life,
and, uh, I was drinking a lot
and doing a lot of behaviors
that weren't healthy.
And I saw that he was going
through the same thing,
and I knew that eventually
I wanted to have a fight,
and, uh, so I just kind of...
as he was battling something,
I was dealing with it myself.
And, uh, I outlined that to him,
and he got back to me
and really just said, you know,
"keep pushing forward,
and, if you ever need anything,
feel free to drop me a line,"
and just really sincere.
It wasn't really long
or anything, but, like,
I could just tell
that he really cared,
and I kept in contact with him
as much as I could after that
when I...
when I needed something.
Evan wrote in many journals.
He always kept a pen and paper
with him, at all times.
He would, in the middle
of eating, write stuff down,
and he had a very big
fascination with ink pens.
He had purchased a few,
and it meant a lot to him.
There are, you know, many, many goals
I have with the writing, you know?
One is to market myself,
keep myself out there.
Another is to be, you know, absolutely
to be accessible to the fans.
You know, it's my way of giving
back to the fans for,
you know,
everything they've done for me.
Giving them an inside look at,
you know, a fighter's life,
and just... just trying to be,
you know, trying to...
trying to share with them.
So, you know,
that's another thing.
And I'm trying to get
a message out there, you know,
that, you know,
just because you're...
oh, one of the short-term
messages is, you know,
you don't have to be a hard-ass,
a macho, tough guy, you know,
to, you know, to be a fighter, to
compete in this sport, you know?
It's... that's not
what it's about.
It's not about, uh, you know,
WWE and stuff, you know,
that kind of
disrespectful attitude.
It's about... it's about
the old warrior code, you know?
The old, you know, respect.
We're standing there,
and he says,
"wade, I have something
I want to give you,"
in that... his voice,
and I said, "okay, sure. "
Um, he was always humble.
He had his head bowed, and he reached
up, and he says, "it's my pen. "
And I said, "okay, thanks. "
And he said, "do you know
the importance of a pen?"
And I said, "no. "
He goes,
"well, someday you will. "
And it took me a while, but I was
standing in the living room one day
after his death,
and then all of a sudden,
you know, it just kind of hit me,
I know I'm a little slow, but...
Words are very powerful,
and he believed that.
Words are very powerful.
He really had a huge heart,
and he cared for everybody
that would send him messages,
and he read them, and he
responded as if he did care,
you know, because he did.
And I know, with a lot of the women
that he... he talked to online,
had a deep, deep,
deep emotional connection.
I guess it depends
on the person that you are
and what kind of experience
you had with him
in what stage of his life,
but to me, he was awesome.
He was like a brother to me,
you know?
He was my best friend.
Let's see, Evan and I spent
weekends together for the most part
because we met
when I was in the school year,
and, being a teacher, you know,
and we'd spend time on the
boat together, in oceanside.
Well, you know, Evan
had been here for a long time,
and he'd been
way past the time limit
of what they normally allowed
people to hold boats
here on temporary slips.
We'd only taken it out twice
to learn how to sail it,
and, prior to that, neither of us
had had any sailing experience,
so that was kind of a... it was just... it
was just kind of an exciting day.
We were going out,
it was sunny,
the weather was good,
the water was smooth.
He's just like a little kid
in a candy store.
Just smiling. He's so happy, sitting
there, and he's directing the sails,
and he's kind of talking
to me about how you do it,
and I don't know.
I'm not a quick learner.
And I was just like, "okay. "
But, yeah, he had some plans
to travel around the world,
around all the oceans on her.
He really thought he can do this
and really would love
to do it.
That was, like, his goal.
On the way down the, you know,
the farther out you get
the waves and the wakes
get bigger.
And it was an old, wooden boat,
and so we were... we were kind
of hitting the wakes, and...
it wasn't any big deal,
but there was a couple of times
where I heard big, loud cracks.
And Dan was about to come down,
he noticed a bunch of water
down at the end
of, like, the little stairs.
There's... the water
was just filling up.
And so Evan comes down,
and he's, like, checking it out,
trying to figure out
where it's coming from.
Kind of was looking around.
He pulled the floorboards
out of the boat,
and it was just filled with
water up to the floorboards.
He took one
of those Tupperware tool...
or a Tupperware container
that he was using as a toolbox.
He just took it and dumped it
all off onto the countertop
and straddled the floorboard
and just stuck it down in there
and filled it up with water
and handed it up to me.
We probably did that about...
between 500 and 1,000 times.
We somehow got lucky.
We found the bay
that they were talking about
that we're supposed
to "anchor" at.
And that's when it went down.
I just watched as Evan and Dan
tried to just deal with things
from the shore.
Tried to save it
by just pumping water.
My friend mark
had brought us some hand pumps.
We had the bilge pump connected,
and Evan never stopped.
He just kept going and going and
going just with the determination
that he hit
everything else with.
Evan didn't want
to leave the boat.
You know, captain wanted
to go down with the boat.
And he did.
He slept on top of it inside,
because by the time it finally
hit bottom, it was high tide,
and it was pretty stable
for the most part.
So I was gonna leave,
and Evan talked me out of it.
He's like, "no, no, no.
I need you to stay here. "
I understood.
That day, losing his home
and his future, his dreams
of doing that, were gone.
You know, and he was still
drinking quite a bit.
The sun coming up,
and it was an overcast day,
and by us sitting on her side,
and he's sitting on the beach
with all this stuff
all around him.
His life that he had left,
you know.
According to him, he said
that was the lowest of his lows,
sitting on that beach
and watching that...
just everything just,
fttt, gone.
When I had talked to Evan about
everything that he had been through
and along his travels
and asked him, you know,
to kind of give me an idea
of what that was all about,
and he had touched on that,
when he was drinking,
a lot of it was
to gain experience
and to, like, lay the foundation
for a great...
something that would become
a great work.
And I wasn't
really understanding
a lot of it, and he told me to
read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
and that it would put things
into perspective for me.
Most young people are
broadly influenced
by Siddhartha and the quest
for spiritual enlightenment
and the whole Buddha of it all.
Siddhartha was only
a stepping stone
to the conversation I had
with him about Steppenwolf.
Steppenwolf was another book
by Hermann Hesse
that he had read
that he had loved.
It's strange.
It's a story
about a 50-year-old man
who checks into a rooming house
to commit suicide and ends up, you know,
walking around an old German town
where he meets a woman,
and he goes to a jazz club,
and his whole life
is reinvigorated
by dancing lessons
this woman gives him,
and he opens himself up to
music and a whole other life.
And Evan related to that.
I went to jazzercise class with this
guy because it's an aerobic workout.
I never, ever in my life
would have walked
into, like...
it was like jazzercise.
And Danita went in there too.
Me, Danita, and Evan, and I was
like... and Evan knew the moves
and the steps,
and I'm going, "what is this?"
I was watching him. I'm like... And
then he'd get kind of embarrassed
that he knew 'em 'cause I'm like,
"you've done this more than once.
It's not your first time. "
I think he was looking for a place
to maybe get some perspective
and take charge
of his life again.
And, you know, we... we had heard
a lot of stories
about him out in town,
and it was sad.
As a fan, it saddened me.
And so he came in here one
day and wanted to train,
so him and bill trained.
Soon as he started hitting mitts,
bill's like, "oh, the fire in his eyes.
"You could see it.
It was there.
Evan Tanner back. "
Oh, man.
As a fan, oh, my gosh.
And he told me that he had
set a date for his sobriety.
And... which was kind
of an interesting concept
for me as the mom of an addict.
You know, it's like that's not
how they do it traditionally,
but I get what he was doing.
And then I got an email from him saying
that he was gonna move to Vegas.
It made me very happy.
I wanted him to give it up
and to get on with his life
and be rid of that part, where he
could feel like he could do things
in life without alcohol.
When he decided to quit was about the
time my wife moved out of our house.
You know, you know
just from timetable,
you know, he's got to be going through
hell 'cause he quit cold Turkey.
He just walked away.
And he's calling me up, keeping me on
the phone 'cause I'm in... you know,
this was a very tough time
for me.
He called me probably
two or three times a day,
sometimes for a couple hours
at a time,
you know, and I'm sure
it was probably
a distraction
for him in some ways,
but I don't think it was just him,
"well, I'm just gonna use this,
so I don't think
about drinking. "
I needed him.
I needed somebody.
And he stepped right up.
That was it.
I never heard
anything more about it.
I mean, he never really talked
about it.
It was done.
He sent me an email.
He said, you know,
"how are you doing?
"I recently parted ways with
a friend of 15 years, alcohol.
"I'm almost 40 years old, " and only
now do I consider myself a man.
"Now I can really begin my life.
"I am flying.
"I am not in a position
financially or materially
"that many in this society
would consider impressive
"for a man of my age,
but they don't know what I know.
"You, being a sappy, overly
emotional, melodramatic guy
"like myself will understand
all of this, I'm sure.
"Ha ha.
Just kidding.
"I suddenly got the urge
to write you tonight.
"I'm not sure why.
"This letter's
not what I expected.
"I began to write,
and the words and thoughts
"just came,
as if the letter wrote itself.
"I can only think " that your
present position in life
"could be considered very similar
to my own "in many respects.
"I see it all as a time
of rebirth.
"I hope you're doing well.
Choose to fly, my friend,
Evan. "
It's terrifying, where I went.
You know, I don't... I'm so... I'm
so thankful that it's over,
all that's over.
You know,
15 years of it, it's scary.
So I wouldn't tell anyone else
to take that path.
He always talked about...
you know, intimate things
a lot of people would keep guarded,
he let everyone know about.
And that's what was great.
And so I, in turn,
I kind of knew
what was going on in his life,
so I was kind of nervous,
you know, to ask him
for the interview.
But I think, like...
I think he thought
I was kind of green,
so he kind of threw me a bone,
and he was like, "yeah, sure.
You know, I'll give you
an interview. "
This is Ryan McKinnell
sitting down with,
well, I'm not gonna say
new UFC middleweight,
BTU the returning UFC
middleweight Evan Tanner.
I want to thank you a bunch
for taking the time
to talk with us, Evan.
No worries.
So how's everything going
with you, man?
You know, tell us
what's been going on with you.
Been training.
That's about it.
Yeah, got settled in in Vegas, hard
knocks Muay Thai. Training every day.
That's about it.
Yup, yup.
- Full-time job.
- How's everything
with your health?
Everything feeling good?
You feeling good?
I'm feeling really good.
Yeah, focused on the task
at hand and everything?
I'm ready to go, you know.
A guy doesn't, you know,
forget how to fight.
You know,
I've been fighting so long.
You know, people have talked
about ring rust and all that.
You know, that's not gonna play...
I don't think that's gonna play,
you know, a factor at all.
I feel good.
He was a guy that we really
liked, and we really respected him.
And that was why, when he wanted
to make that comeback, you know,
we instantly brought him.
It wasn't like, "hey, Evan.
Fight in the smaller shows
and work your way back in. "
We brought Evan Tanner
right back in.
He cut everything that was in the
way, and he focused on training.
So he didn't have a place to
stay where he can focus on that,
so he stayed right here, right
underneath that ring over there.
And he spend probably two weeks,
three weeks, maybe more.
He had his own key.
And he was very open to learn,
so in the process of learning,
he considered himself
a beginner.
All right? So I will put him to spar
with the regular class sometimes.
And one of the guys will be all
eager... happy to spar with him,
and Evan kick him in the leg and
give him a big, fat, black bruise.
But the guy,
instead of being all bitchy
and complaining about it...
the bruise,
he would come back
the day after and show it
to everybody
because Evan gave it to him.
As far as training went,
like every aspect of his life,
he was very giving.
He actually, you know,
while he was getting ready
for the fight for Okami, he
took time out of his training
to get me ready for a fight.
We trained and did a hardcore workout
and got back to the apartment.
I said, "oh, we've got
a couple hours.
We're gonna kill this movie. "
"No, no, no, no, no.
"Like, we... you're not gonna want
to train "after this movie.
It's awesome.
It's awesome. "
So I was getting excited and asking,
and he wouldn't tell me what it was.
Went and trained again, came back
and, so excited, set up the laptop
on the cardboard box and asked him
what it was again, wouldn't tell me.
And then put it in, he's like, "just watch.
Just watch. "
And it was the cutting edge, which
is a cheesy romantic comedy
about a injured hockey player
who turns figure skater.
And I was just blown away that
Evan thought that I was...
I don't know, I was like,
"why the hell did you think
I was gonna love this movie
so much?" You know?
Like, I don't skate. I don't...
I had a sponsor here in Vegas
that knew Evan was here
in Vegas.
He was getting ready to fight
for the UFC,
and they wanted to give him,
like, I think
it was, like, 35 grand
for one fight.
Wanted to give him,
like, 35 grand.
But he had to wear a shirt,
you know, of the sponsor.
He's like, "um, no. "
Evan made his T-shirt,
you know, and he kind of went
to the people, and he wanted to be
sponsored by the fans directly,
which is, you know, a very interesting
and, you know, unique approach.
And I guess I understood it
to an extent, you know.
And I called him one time and
asked him for a... for a glove.
He said, "who's it for?"
And I said, "it's for my son. "
And he put a message on there.
And, when Evan gave you
something, that was yours.
The message said, to Hampton,
"speak true, dream big,
live strong. "
He called me one night,
and he said, "wade, do you think
Hampton would mind
if I borrowed those words?"
And I said, "absolutely not. "
He would use... he was using himself
as a common ground for everybody.
You would see that people
were getting together
just to see him back in
the ring and all that.
And he was the power of one.
Many ones.
So he brought us together.
We like to hear guys
that are like,
"whoever... whoever is perceived
to be the best
"and that I can climb up
and, you know,
"get a little higher in the rankings
"and possibly get a title fight,
I'll fight anybody,
anywhere, anytime. "
And that's who Evan Tanner was.
How do you feel about this...
the time off you've had
from the last fight
up until this moment?
is there anything you feel
you're gonna do different,
or how you're
gonna approach this?
Had some things, you know,
to kind of get over.
You know, my first...
what's a way to say this?
Took two years off.
Got in pretty bad shape.
Took me a while to get back...
even back in training shape.
Went into my first fight, my first
fight back, not feeling so well.
You know,
everything stabilized.
I'm feeling really good
The training's been
just as intense.
It's just my body's
responding better now.
The week before he fought
my friend Kendall grove
in the UFC, I think his last UFC
fight, and it was like the same thing.
He had no one to train with,
you know.
He was at warrior gym,
and he was by himself,
and, like I said,
I'd been there before,
so, you know, I've been there,
even my first UFC fight, you know.
He was going there alone too,
so I helped him a little bit.
I didn't, like, really help him as
far as like, "this is what you got
to do to beat Kendall," at all, but
I was just, like, a body for him
to, like, drill
his technique on,
and I remember thinking
that, like, you know,
"this isn't the guy I fought. "
At first, I was trying to think,
like, "man, I'm a lot better now. "
You know what I mean? "I can beat,
you know, Evan Tanner easy now. "
But the first time we fought,
we stared each other down,
and then he turned around,
and I remember he had, like,
huge muscles
in his back, you know.
His upper traps and his shoulders
and stuff were big, and, you know,
he turned around
and he walked this way,
and I followed behind him
off the stage,
and then after, like,
the second day of training
or the third day of training,
I was thinking,
"man, you know,
I got much better now.
I'm really good. "
And he took a shower
and took his shirt off,
and he didn't have
any of those,
any of the muscles
like he did, you know.
All I could see
was a lot of freckles, you know.
It stuck out in my mind.
His electrolytes and energy system being
messed up from years of drinking.
Like, he didn't feel right
a lot of the time, so, like...
and I thought, you know,
we were talking earlier.
He had good days and bad.
He's just kind of like his...
you know, almost like he'd kind of
drank himself diabetic or something.
He called me into the washroom one
morning and is like, "look at that. "
And I looked in the toilet, and
his piss looked like motor oil.
No one else would be training,
let alone ready to step
into the biggest venue in MMA.
I don't believe he wanted
to acknowledge that.
Evan, when I was
in the dressing room with him,
was... I don't know that I've ever
experienced anything like that.
I mean, the guy didn't even want
his hands wrapped for the fight.
Like, you know, normal things
that you would do for a fight.
from the old-school nature,
he just wanted to put his gloves
on, go out there, and scrap.
I thought, and I know
you'll think I'm an idiot,
I thought he'd beat
Kendall grove.
I really did, and I went up
to Lorenzo Fertitta
after the fight, and I said,
"I thought Evan won. "
And he said, "'cause you're
thinking with your heart,
not your head.
He didn't win. "
"But I thought he did. "
It's different with Evan
how he dealt with the losses
because he was not
just a fighter.
He felt like he won because
he had beat his addictions,
and he wanted to
drink, and he didn't.
And he didn't touch alcohol
after that,
and he really... he really stuck to
his guns, and he stayed clean,
and he was like, "I'm gonna get back
in there and win a fucking fight. "
I told him I had a really big fight
coming up and that I'd be honored
if he would come down and
corner me, and he accepted,
and he flew down to corner me.
I end up losing that fight
in the third round,
and it was good
to have Evan there.
We just hung out
in the hotel room,
and, you know, we had both
kind of on the same page.
Like, coming off a loss
is a tough thing,
and being with a guy
who... like, my best friend,
who understood me
and understood that situation,
was... you know,
he really picked my spirits up.
He just really
has been through stuff
and can really understand
and relate
and give that advice
'cause he's been there,
done that.
He just... he was really good
at comprehending things
and understanding
and how to fix things,
better with other people
than himself.
You know, believe that you can,
even as a single individual,
you can change the world
because your...
your words and actions resonate
out eternal in a sense, you know.
I can stand up for these things
that I believe in, I can stand up,
I can speak out,
and I will be heard.
I can change the world.
That's my motivation.
I can change the world.
You know, he flew out to build
a playground for kids
he had no connection with.
You know, it was because he actually
believed that we all are connected.
Helping children and helping
people have what he didn't have,
showing them that you could do and
achieve anything you set your mind to.
As long as you believe you can make
an impact, you can make an impact.
And I think that's just for him
what it was.
It was just... it could be the
person you smile at today.
You know, it could be
the very smallest thing.
A sign or show of compassion
you could do today
could turn into something huge
for somebody else tomorrow.
So we were each other's
support in different ways.
He definitely exposed me
to a lot.
He was kind of... didn't really like
to think things thoroughly through.
He'd always give me crap for,
like, just going backpacking,
but I'd think, "okay, I need to
bring this in case this happens. "
And he's like, "gosh, you
think about things so much. "
I'm like, "well, yeah, you never know
"if something's gonna encounter.
"You're gonna have to protect yourself
or save yourself or whatever. "
You know, and he's like,
"yeah, I guess you're right.
I could use some of that. "
I remember the last time he said that,
we went backpacking about a month,
maybe two months before
he passed, and...
I remember
just thinking about...
Whatever goal he had in sight,
he was gonna go there.
You know.
That's what I thought really... with
the whole incident, what happened,
did he really want
to kill himself?
Did he rea... didn't want
to kill himself?
But when I heard the story,
when he went out there,
the first thing that came
to my mind
was saying that, okay, he told himself
he can actually make this back.
He's gonna do it, you know.
Walking back, God knows how
many Miles without any drink.
I think that was typical him.
And I got
a text message from him too.
"I'm in Clapp Springs.
"I ran out of water.
"I feel like shit,
but I'm okay.
"If you don't hear from me
by tomorrow in the morning,
call search and rescue. "
And another message was like,
"I going to try to hike
the 5 Miles
back to camp. "
And after that, I call him, and
I call him, and I call him.
I never got an answer from him.
And next day I just... I just did
what he told me to do.
Hey, this is Evan.
Hey, sorry, I...
forever, last time we talked.
It's my nature. Uh... You know, we
usually spoke nearly every day,
and I always called him E.T.
I never called him Evan.
And for some reason I said... I called
his number, and he said, "hello. "
And I said, "Evan. "
"Wade, I'm surprised
I'm getting a signal. "
I said,
"what are you doing?"
And he told me, he said, "wade,
I think I'm dying of thirst. "
And I couldn't...
he couldn't hear me.
And I kept hollering,
"Evan, Evan. "
And I get,
And I thought,
well, he'll get a signal.
He'll call me back.
I hung up the phone.
And I waited, I called him,
left several messages.
And I knew something was wrong, but
I didn't know where he was at.
I couldn't help him.
So I waited.
I called oceanside.
I didn't know where he was at.
And I started filling out a
missing person's report.
I told 'em Evan, Evan Tanner, and
then 20-something minutes into it,
she said she couldn't give me
any more information,
that somebody had already filed
a missing person's report, and
I said, "please help me. "
She says, "I can't give you
any information. "
I said, "please.
Tell me,"
I said, "this is my friend. "
And she said, "well,
we found his motorcycle. "
Yeah, I knew then.
But that's the last words
I got to speak to him.
And that's the old saying, say
something kind, because it could be
your last words.
I bought a case of water,
and I was just like,
"would one or two bottles
get him back?
Half a case?
If he just had a little more?"
We had the really dubious task
of going through Evan's apartment
in oceanside and having to pack
it all up and get it out
and then catalog it,
and I wanted to...
I wanted to be there,
and I kind of wanted
to talk to him one last time before
it was all kind of taken apart.
Woke up the next morning and
walked down to the beach.
I just wanted to feel
kind of what... what his life
might have been like,
and I just felt
how peaceful the end of his life
must have felt,
how it just felt
like home to me even.
Evan did not drink at all when
he lived here at this complex.
I never saw him have a
drink, never drank.
We offered him drinks
all the time
'cause we'd hang out
and barbecue, drink,
and always offered,
but he never drank.
It's been said that Evan
had become sober at times,
and he could kind of...
kind of manage the drinking.
And some people were saying
that he'd even been sober
for, like, up to a year
before he died.
You know, I don't believe
that's true.
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
I caught wind of that.
But I'd also seen him sober up
a couple times,
you know what I mean,
so I don't know.
I don't know for sure.
I wasn't there.
And I hope... I hope
he was completely sober,
and, like I said,
I don't know 100%.
I said,
"it's like fighting. "
I said, "do you
train for a fight?
"Do you tell yourself
I'm not gonna do that
during when I train
for my fight?"
And he goes, "yeah, but I know
the fight's gonna end.
The fight's
gonna be over. "
I said, "okay. " I said, "well,
once you can tell yourself...
the fight's never over. "
I said,
"because that's the problem.
"For you, the drinking is a fight,
"and the fight's never gonna be over.
"You've always got to
train to keep that away. "
And he goes,
"you don't have to tell me. "
He says, "I've been doing that
for a long time. "
He goes,
"I just keep losing. "
You know, from my battles
with being a drunk,
is that, what Evan did wrong,
is he just quit drinking, okay?
He just quit drinking.
He didn't...
he didn't kind of deal
with all the pain that he was going
through and what was happening
when he was on that bender.
And a lot of people
wanted to point fingers
at Evan's relationship
or his upbringing as a child or his
career as to why he would drink.
And the fact is, there's
no single factor
that causes someone to make the
choice to become an alcoholic.
It's a very generalized
need to console oneself.
Yeah, okay, this guy
had a problem with alcohol,
and he had some demons
or whatever it was.
It didn't affect him as a
person or as a human being.
People can look
at Evan Tanner's story...
there's people
who are struggling right now
as we speak like Evan Tanner did
with alcohol.
Evan Tanner
was this incredible guy,
gifted guy, battled with alcohol,
and you see how it ends.
You see how his story ends.
And your story could end
the same way.
I believe that Evan's death could
have been avoided, and I think
that he would want
everybody to learn
from his death,
especially the younger people,
you know... always know the
consequences of what you're gonna do
and that the risks
that you're gonna take
and the people
that you're gonna affect
because, even if Evan didn't realize
how many people cared about him,
his family, friends, and even people
that didn't know him loved him.
And so he had an effect
on the whole world.
What a... you know, what
an amazing human being he was
and a lovely, kind,
stubborn, bull-headed,
grouchy, grumpy, single-minded
pain in the ass he genuinely was.
And I loved him probably more
than anybody I've ever known.
Evan had the heart of a champion,
and what defines a champion
is getting up when you're down.
You know what I mean?
It's the guy who, after he's
beaten, he stands up, rises up,
and then succeeds again.
And I think
that he had that in him.
Excuse me.
I have something to say.
Evan Tanner, you're the strongest
man I've ever fought in my life.
And congratulations
for the championship.
Evan never did any harm to
anybody, only himself, you know,
unless he was kicking the shit
out of somebody.
You know, when he would put
the wood to the motherfucker.
Don't fool yourself.
Evan Tanner
was a bad motherfucker.
All right.
"Fighter. I'm not a fighter. "
Bullshit, Evan.
When I see you,
I guarantee the first thing
we're gonna do is fucking fight.
You're gonna be like, "look at
all my philosophy bullshit now. "
To me, he was like a ghost.
He came through my life, mess
it up, change it a little bit,
make me see things, and then
disappear and go... keep on going.
He really taught me
what's important in life.
It just... it's kind of
like, you know, a dream.
You know, something...
it's like a crowd is there
in your dream,
and he's kind of always there.
But I think he's probably
looking out for me.
If he was reading this story
about himself
as the character,
he'd be satisfied.
He'd appreciate this person
and their ups and downs
and still being able
to deal with it.
And, honestly, I do feel that he
would be happy with the ending.
This was...
this was on his Internet page.
"I haven't figured out
the meaning of life yet.
"I do know what gives life
meaning, though.
"It's not wealth.
It's not power.
"It's a simple thing.
"It is the trusting and truthful bond
one has "with oneself and others.
"It is the people in life
that give it meaning and depth.
"I'll always consider myself
"a fortunate and wealthy man
if I am surrounded
by good people. "
I never met a guy who would
go from one extreme to another.
You know, he never walked
that fine line.
He was either way over here,
or he was way over here.
So he's been on the bottom
of the Mountain.
He's been to the top.
Everywhere in between.
And, again,
it was an experience.
And instead of just telling
everybody the good stuff,
you know, he put the bad stuff
in there too.
Evan showed the world what he was,
and he wasn't always perfect.
But he showed 'em
he could be perfect.
One of the ultimate things
a human can learn
is kindness for their fellow
humans and understanding.
I'd like to teach those things
to my children.
"If you can count
five good friends on one hand,
I said, "I think
you're a pretty lucky man. "
I am the boy
your mother wanted
you to meet
but I am broken and torn
with halos at my feet
and with your purest light
why don't you shine
on me?
oh, I should have been
an angel
but I'm too dumb to speak
now as she gets nearer
the visions get clearer
I'm kneeling, weeping
I will hold her dear
oh, if your eyes water
you've got
your favorite number
to spin
and oh
what a crying shame
a crying shame
what we became
murdered my throat,
screaming bloody all night
hit him with a book
and how he crumbles
oh, you should have seen
how the arches tumble
they're golden no more
now I'm smiling in my blood
I'm caught in a whirlwind
I'm going to heaven
I'm standing on trial
and it's painted on canvas
an eternal testament
to how we are so animalistic
and oh
what a crying shame
a crying shame
what we became
I bowed my head
in the morning light
and said good night
I held her hand
and I, I kissed her eyes
stumbled down the stairs
hang myself on high
and I started for the town
lyin' on the front yard
and died