On what will unquestionably be remembered as one of mixed martial arts' saddest days, former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner—beloved by fans for his fighting ability and by friends for his free spirit—was found dead Monday. He was 37.
Tanner, on a camping trip in the Palo Verde mountain area, was found by an Imperial County Sheriff’s Department deputy. The cause of death is not known at this time. He had not answered friends’ text messages since last Wednesday, and was officially reported missing on Friday.
His agent, John Hayner, says that Tanner was excited about the trip and in a good place physically and mentally before his untimely death.
“He was in a good state of mind the last time we spoke,” Hayner told UFC.com. “Everyone that was around him, and even at the gym he was training at, also said he was in a great state of mind. Living in Oceanside (California), he really liked being on the beach. His house was across from the water, he was in beautiful surroundings.”
If one thing was ever clear about Tanner, it was that he loved life, the outdoors, and adventure.
“He was always planning on going on some sort of adventure,” Hayner said. “And he never needed the finer things or made a fuss about them. He just needed enough for gas, shelter, and training.”
Tanner was quoted in saying in a 2005 interview, “I believe there are people out there that just have a warrior spirit, whether it’s fighting or something, they’ve got to do it. It’s hard to identify with me; it’s just something I do.”
A dark day indeed in the sport of MMA. Tanner will be remembered by all UFC and MMA fans surely, and I wish his family well.