On a night when the main and co-main events of UFC 130 were lackluster, the UFC’s Brian Stann made sure to pump life into a crowd that was looking for a fighter to get behind this Memorial Day Weekend.
Stann — a former Marine who was awarded a Silver Star for his valor and leadership during service in Iraq — already had a built-in advantage being the American war hero facing a Brazilian in Jorge Santiago, but his performance Saturday night proved to be as solid as his back story.
Stann floored Santiago with a big right at the start of the second round and finished him off with another half-dozen rights much to the delight of the pro-Stann crowd that had been singing out “U-S-A” chants throughout the fight.
“It means so much to win today,” said an emotional Stann, who dropped down to his knees in the octagon after the victory at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. “There are people who aren’t here anymore. They are the true heroes. I am here thanks to a lot of luck and I’m grateful to be fighting on the biggest stage on earth.
“The attention that’s bestowed upon me is misdirected. It belongs to the active military personnel and those who lost their lives fighting for this country. It was a tremendous honor to fight in front of these fans tonight and I’m really thankful to Jorge Santiago for being a great opponent.”
A larger number of military personnel were in the stands for Stann’s victory, including members of Navy SEAL Team Six.
“For all you families out there that have lost someone in combat, this weekend is all about you,” said Stann, who is the president of Hire Heroes USA, which finds work for veterans.
“So please everybody, take some time this weekend, remember what it’s all about. Thank those who sacrificed all for our freedoms.”
The win was the third in a row for Stann (11-3), the former WEC light-heavyweight champion who dropped down to middleweight in early 2010.
Stann’s powerful striking, clean-cut image and savvy interactions with the media have made him a budding UFC star.
“He looks better every time he fights,” UFC president Dana White said. “His story is great. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a home run. He’s gold, man. The guy can become a big superstar if he keeps fighting the way he is.”
“The other thing about him is he goes and fights, man. He goes out and tries to finish people. … Those are the guys that the fans get behind and like to watch. The Wanderleis [Wanderlei Silva], the Chuck Liddells, etc. etc.”