Exclusive Brian Stann Interview

UFC middleweight talks new book

Brian Stann is more than just a mixed martial artist, but you probably already know the story. Though he tends to deflect such attention away from himself and towards the soldiers who served under him, Stann is a bonafide American hero for his actions serving under fire as a platoon commander in Afghanistan.

That story (and many others) are detailed for the first time in Stann’s upcoming book, Heart For The Fight, which is available September 15 from Zenith Press. I recently sat down for an interview with Stann to discuss some of the stories from the book, his progression under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and more.

Heavy.com: The first thing I wanted to ask you about is one of the more dramatic things from the book. A fellow female soldier accused you of sexual assault, and you had to go through a months-long ordeal that couldn’t have been easy. How did you deal with the situation and with people who probably believed you were guilty, especially when you knew that you were innocent the entire time?

Stann: Great question. I was wondering when this was going to come up. When you know the truth, you go and you look yourself in the mirror. And that made things easy on me. So I never walked with my head hung low. I have an amazing core of friends from that time in my life that were with me from long before who where there that night. And we all knew the truth and we stood by the truth, and we knew in the end that no matter what, I was right. So that made moving forward much easier.

Heavy.com: Did you have any friends going into that experience that weren’t your friends when it was over?

Stann: None. I had none. It didn’t happen whatsoever. In fact, I made new friends.

Heavy.com: You noted in the book that the whole experience changed the way you dealt with women, that you were much more cautious afterwards and always took care to leave a door open if you were in the room with another woman or to never allow yourself into those situations. Was that a conscious decision that you made after going through that ordeal?

Stann: Oh, absolutely. It was one of those things where you get caught off guard. I think I had — and continue to have — trust issues to this day with people in general. Any time you’re going to be a person of any kind of stature who is going to aim high for things, there are going to be people out there who are going to look to bring you down.

Heavy.com: What led to the decision to weave the stories of your Cantwell fights into the narrative of the book? Was it to show how much you’d improved since the beginning of your career?

Stann: Well, I think it was partly that. It was entertaining to do that. But you also kind of bounce around between my fights and my fight progressions, and I think it’s that the same qualities that helped me in my Marine Corps career also helped me get to where I am in my martial arts career.

I think it was important to intertwine them so that people could see those qualities and those common themes in multiple realms as you go through the book. I didn’t want them to be chunked together in themes in the book where I would focus one part the Marines and then the second part of the book is on fighting.

Heavy.com: You went to the Naval Academy to play football, and the book details how that was a pretty tough experience for you in not being able to play as much as you’d like and in how much difficulty you had in making the team. How much of that experience helped mold you into what you are today?

Stann: I think athletically and professionally, it helped me in both realms. I quickly realized that the real world is very cutthroat. And when you start playing college football, especially Division 1, it’s very cutthroat. For those coaches, it’s their job. They make money to field the best teams and the best programs and to win for years on end. They can lose their job very quickly.

And if you’re not going to bring immediate value to something for them, then you’re going to be utilized, no matter how much someone likes you or how much you deserve it. It’s not always fair. If you’re at the same level or maybe just a bit better than another guy, but he’s younger than you, they’re going to go with him.

It’s a lot like life. I mean, there are a lot of UFC fighters out there that everybody loves who work harder than anybody else, but they’re let go by the organization. It’s no different than any other job. Especially in this economy, where companies are downsizing and people who have been with a company for a long time. The people with the highest salaries are the first ones to be let go.

That experience playing college football taught me a lesson that sticks with me to this day: that I have to immediately and resoundingly show the value that I bring in my professional life. Whether it be with my job with Hire Heroes or my job with the UFC, I need to consistently perform at my highest level every single day. I cannot take either of those things for granted.