ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Brian Stann already has a lengthy list of accomplishments on his lifetime résumé: Naval Academy graduate, decorated U.S. Marine and WEC light heavyweight champion, to name a few.
He added author to that list earlier this year when his book, "Heart for the Fight" was released nationally. The autobiographical account details Stann's time at Navy, his service in Iraq and his mixed martial arts career in both the WEC and the UFC. The writing process proved to be cathartic for the Silver Star recipient.
"I chose to do the project because I wanted something out there that was very honest and wasn't inflated -- that my Marines could read and give to their families and say, 'Hey, I don't talk about this much, but here's at least an idea of some of the things we've done' -- and a book that talks a little bit about the fighting experience, the leadership experience, etc., because I've had a lot of lessons learned in my life," Stann said. "But when you're recounting some of those stories, it's very emotional. There were times I would leave to go work on the book -- and be in one room -- and come back to be with my family, and I was in a completely different mood.
"It took almost two years to write the book, so it's not easy. I'm glad it's over and it's done with."
The Pennsylvania native will break new ground again when he co-headlines a pay-per-view event for the first time in his career. He will meet Chris Leben at UFC 125 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Leben has long been one of MMA's most polarizing figures. His stint on the debut season of "The Ultimate Fighter" created a love-him-or-hate-him persona among fans. In the summer, the middleweight known as "The Crippler" elevated his status with victories over Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama in consecutive weeks, a turnaround that is almost unheard of at the sport's highest levels.
Stann, who trains at Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts, is well aware of the ramifications of his showdown with Leben. When the WEC eliminated its heavier weight classes in 2008, Stann lost his main card privileges. In the Octagon, he has toiled on the undercards. His last bout, a victory over Mike Massenzio at UFC Live 2, garnered "submission of the night" honors but failed to make the televised broadcast.
"There's no doubt this is the highest-profile fight [of my career]," Stann said. "I've fought in main events, and I've fought for titles in the WEC, but none of that equals the stage of a UFC pay-per-view. The fact that this fight got upgraded to co-main event is really due to Chris Leben and his accomplishments."
The Stann-Leben bout took the place of a scheduled tussle between featherweight king Jose Aldo and Josh Grispi after the Brazilian was forced to withdraw from the fight because of a cervical spine injury.
Before toppling Massenzio as a middleweight, Stann had 11 fights under his belt at 205 pounds. He feels stronger now at 185 than he did for the initial weight cut.
"The weight's come off a lot easier. I'm a pretty disciplined guy, so in between fights, I wouldn't allow myself to get heavier than 210 pounds," Stann said. "The first weight [cut] coming down from 220 was difficult, and it took five months to do that. I don't have five months every fight. I have to maintain a disciplined lifestyle. I feel better; I'm stronger this time. The weight cut is not going to deplete nearly as much energy. It's going to be a really exciting fight for me."
With 13 victories via knockout or technical knockout, Leben has become known for his willingness to engage in slugfests. Even so, Stann believes he can trade punches with the heavy-handed Oregon native.
"I think I'm a better striker than him," he said, before correcting himself. "I know I'm a better striker than him. I'm more technical than he is."
Leben might enter the match as a prohibitive favorite, but Stann has a wealth of experience to draw upon when the Octagon doors close.
"I've overcome way worse adversity in this lifetime than fighting guys that are better than me," he said. "I got demoted to the undercards and won some fights that people didn't know about, and I won a couple fights where I was certainly not the favorite."
Tristen Critchfield is a contributor to Sherdog.com.