The self-assured demeanor and authoritative sound of his voice have returned. They are solid indicators that Brian Stann is close to being his old self again -- personally and professionally.
For more than a year, Stann has been rebounding from a family tragedy.
His brother-in-law, Louie Rusti Jr., passed away on Dec. 23, 2011. Since that time, the overwhelming majority of Stann’s focus has been on helping his wife and mother-in-law recover. It’s been a very difficult period, emotionally, for Stann and his family -- losing a close family member is never easy. They haven’t fully recovered from Rusti’s passing, and possibly never will, but progress has been made.
Each day, life in the Stann household shows more signs of returning to normalcy. There’s a lot of laughter again, daughters Alexandra and DeAnna keep the fun flowing. Their youthful innocence and playfulness is contagious throughout the home.
Another factor that has helped this family steadily put the pieces back together is Stann’s decision not to leave for an extended period.
Rather than spend two months in Albuquerque, N.M., at Jackson’s/Winkeljohn’s gym preparing for fights, Stann has conducted each of his past three training camps in Atlanta. It’s the best decision this dedicated soon-to-be-father-of-three could have made.
“The biggest thing is when you’re not able to be a father; you’re missing moments in time with your young children that you will never get back again,” Stann told ESPN.com. “It’s a big distraction.
“That would hurt me when I was in New Mexico [training at Jackson’s]. It made me question whether I was choosing the right thing. Was I being selfish?
“Fighting pays me well, but there are other things I can do and be with my kids every day. I have a 5-year-old [Alexandra], a 3-year-old [DeAnna] and my wife [Teresa] is pregnant with our third child. I can’t go for two months and live in another city to train for a fight. I can’t be that selfish.
“I needed to make this [training in Atlanta] happen because, above all else, my No. 1 job in the world is being a father.”
But Stann, who once held the rank of captain in the United States Marine Corps, also is a professional mixed martial artist. And he isn’t the type of guy who cuts corners. Stann’s prefight preparation in Atlanta is just as strenuous, if not more, than those he went through at Jackson’s. Extensive stand-up, grappling and jiu-jitsu sessions are still on the docket.
As has been the case for a while, wrestling techniques get extra special attention. Stann is always looking to improve his wrestling.
A lot of progress was made in each of the previous two training camps. Fighters and coaches traveled from Albuquerque to Atlanta last year to help Stann prepare for fights against Alessio Sakara and Michael Bisping. He won the first with an opening-round knockout, lost the latter by unanimous decision.
But this latest Atlanta-based training camp has been his best. Stann is feeling great. The fire within burns as hot as ever, and he is ready to apply some heat Saturday night to hard-hitting veteran Wanderlei Silva during their UFC on Fuel TV 8 main-event showdown in Saitama, Japan.
The two middleweights will compete at light heavyweight. Both are former 205-pound champions -- Silva in Pride, Stann with WEC.
But Stann makes it clear that he does not intend to exit the 185-pound ranks. This fight against Silva at 205 is a one-shot deal.
“This is a middleweight fight in my eyes,” Stann said. “We made an agreement to ‘let’s just not cut the weight.’
“I didn’t pack on any extra pounds. I don’t have a weight issue; I don’t have a strength issue; I don’t have a power issue. It’s more important to be fast against Wanderlei than it is to be bigger.”
Mourning the death of his brother-in-law hasn’t fully dissipated, but Stann has come a long way since December 2011. So much so that he sounds like his pre-2012 self. The fight with Silva is part of a larger plan. The 32-year-old wants to be more active this year and continue participating in high-profile bouts. Getting rid of Silva in exciting fashion is the first step in that direction.
“A finish in this fight will definitely get me another fight against a significant middleweight, a top-10 ranked middleweight,” said Stann, who will compete on foreign soil for the third time in a row Saturday night. “That’s important to me.
“I want to go out there and dominate; I want to finish this fight. Everything in 2012 is behind me, now I can focus on what I can do.
“I plan to go undefeated this year. I plan to fight three times and I plan to win all three fights and I plan to finish all three fights. I take it very seriously that UFC put me in a main event. I take a lot of pride in that.
“I want to be a guy who is always considered for that part of the card, whether it’s the co-main event or main event; that’s why this is a big fight for me.”