Evan Tanner Found Dead in California

Evan Tanner. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner was found dead in a mountain range near Palo Verde, California on Monday. He was 37-years-old.

The Imperial Valley Press first broke news of the story Monday afternoon, stating that a body was discovered in the Palo Verde mountain area and that authorities believed it may have been that of Tanner, who reportedly embarked on a camping trip into the range last week.

MMA on Tap has since been able to confirm through members of Tanner’s camp that the body found was indeed that of Evan. No other details are available at this time although reports have stated that it appears Tanner may have died from hyperthermia or dehydration after attempting to walk out of the range after his motorcycle ran out of gas.

After relocating to Oceanside, California, Tanner wrote about his intention to travel into the mountain range for a camping trip on his official blog for Spike.com. He jokingly stated that if any of his purchased equipment failed him while on his trip, he may have ended up dying. Unfortunately for Tanner, his premonition came true.

“I’ve been gathering my gear for this adventure for over a month, not a long time by most standards, but far too long for my impatient nature,” Tanner wrote. “Being a minimalist by nature, wanting to carry only the essentials, and being extremely particular, it has been a little difficult to find just the right equipment. I plan on going so deep into the desert, that any failure of my equipment, could cost me my life.”

According to Tanner, the trip was intended to be time by himself before he climbed back into training for another fight. Friends that lived in Tanner’s apartment complex were apparently instructed to seek help if he was unable to be contacted on his trip. After failing to respond to several text messages, friends reported him missing over the weekend.

Tanner’s campsite was discovered by police on Sunday afternoon, with his motorcycle nearby. A sheriff’s deputy conducting a flight around the area where Tanner was believed to be camping spotted his body on Monday.

Tanner graduated from Caprock High School in 1989, where he won the Texas State Championships in wrestling as a junior and senior. He began fighting professional in mixed martial arts in 1997 after being encouraged to enter a local tournament, which was hosted by the now defunct Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation.

Tanner went on to win the one-night tournament, defeating three fighters including former UFC heavyweight title challenger Paul Buentello. After his initial success, Tanner taught himself submission and grappling techniques using instructional DVD’s featuring members of the esteemed Gracie family.

Tanner would go on to successfully defend his USWF heavyweight title eight times and became the first American to ever win the Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament in Japan before making his mark in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he spent the remaining eight years of his career.

After winning his first three bouts in the promotion, Tanner received a shot at then-UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, who knocked out Tanner with a slam just 30 seconds into their main event bout at UFC 30 in February 2001.

Following his loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 42, Tanner opted to drop down to the middleweight division, where he defeated David Terrell in February 2005 to become only the third UFC middleweight champion in history. His title-reign was short-lived however, as he was defeated by Franklin for a second time in a rematch at UFC 53.

Tanner struggled in the years after his second loss to Franklin, losing four out of his last five bouts, his lone win coming over Justin Levens at UFC 59. Tanner’s last fight was a split decision loss to Kendall Grove, which headlined The Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale on June 21.

He was primarily known as a free spirit among those who knew him, frequently engaging on impromptu travels across the United States and sharing his philosophical beliefs on a number of websites over the last few years. Tanner seemingly embraced his persona as such, often claiming that living any other way would have been boring to him.

“I didn’t start out fighting with any kind of plan,” Tanner said in a past interview session with MMA on Tap. “That’s the way that my life has gone for the most part and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I get older, I want to have those stories to tell my children and grandchildren. It’s all about the adventure to me.”


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