If you happen to wander through the host hotel during UFC fight week, you’ll generally catch any number of fighters, coaches and managers traipsing through the hallways or standing in the lobby awaiting a bus to arrive or maybe picking up food for the days ahead. Chances are you’ll also see UFC color commentator Brian Stann somewhere close by, chatting up all of those fighters, coaches and trainers, usually with a grin plastered across his face as he quizzes them on the battle ahead and what to look forward to on fight night.
Even before he was retired from active competition, Stann was looking ahead to what might come next in his career and it didn’t take long for him to figure out that talking about sports was something that came very natural to him. Stann always had the gift for gab and he often used that to promote charities and work he was doing with the troops following his heroic stint as a U.S. Marine.
While fighting in the WEC, Stann was often regarded as one of the best interviews in the sport, colorful and always very analytical with breaking down fights and other fighters. Following the UFC’s historic multiyear deal with FOX to broadcast shows on a slew of different networks, Stann ran into one executive who saw something special brewing under the surface that could make him a top notch commentator.
A few weeks later, Stann was strapping on the headset and calling fights for the first time in his life.
"I’ve been really, really lucky. George Greenberg at FOX Sports 1, when I first started doing the analyst with the FOX deal, he thought that I had some talent and he gave me a gig doing Golden Boy boxing for Fuel TV as the color commentator. So I did Golden Boy boxing for a year and a half while I was still fighting and I don’t think many people knew," Stann revealed when speaking to FOX Sports. "That really gave me a lot of great insight to transition into the UFC."
One of the things I’ve noticed is you’ve got to be willing to take risks and you’ve got to have an opinion. If you don’t, you’re not going to add to the broadcast.
— Brian Stann
While Stann’s work calling boxing may have gone largely unnoticed, his appearances on UFC broadcasts and doing analyst work caught everybody’s attention as he was well spoken, comfortable on television and most of all he was prepared for anything that got thrown at him. As a military man, Stann was well aware of the importance of preparation so he puts in pain staking hours to make sure he was really ready for the task at hand, breaking down fights and doing interviews on camera.
FOX also took notice because his work was so good he got pulled from UFC duties and put on the college football circuit for a year to further hone his craft. It immediately tested Stann to go far outside his natural comfort zone, but the results paid off.
"My year doing college football helped a lot to know what’s expected of me," Stann explained. "Because it’s really all in the preparation. If you don’t put the time in then you’re not going to be able to give the fans and the fighters what they deserve. That’s really for me the most important thing — if I can represent these fighters the best I can when I’m doing broadcasts. Each time I try to get better and I make myself notes so I can get better."
Since his time calling college football, Stann was brought back to be part of the UFC’s analyst team, but also as a color commentator often working beside Jon Anik or Mike Goldberg. It’s clear Stann was made to call fights because his enthusiasm shows through in every second of every round, and his commentary generally adds a layer to broadcast that’s rarely seen in combat sports.
He’s smart when describing techniques, quick witted when the situation calls for it, and doesn’t blow out speakers when he making the call for a big finish or crucial moment in the fight.
And those dozens of meetings in hotel lobbies pay off come fight night as he drops nuggets of knowledge he learned just by having a chat with a coach or corner man and Stann certainly isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it even if it means critiquing a fighter with brutal honesty. He mixes in his analytical calls with a cavalcade of quips and humorous comments like when he recently said that lightweight fighter Pat Healy had pound-for-pound the biggest head in the sport.
As it turns out, these are the same kinds of things being said between fighters every single day in the gym — Stann is just taking them from the locker room to the broadcast booth.
"Slowly but surely since getting out of the Marine corps I’ve been able to get some of my personality back because they pretty much take it from you when you go in. These are comments that I’ve made for years in the gym with the guys, training with each other and making fun of each other. This is an extremely humbling sport because everyday you’re going to get your butt kicked at something," Stann said.
"So now when I call fights I just kind of let them fly. Sometimes people love them, sometimes people hate them, but that’s part of it. One of the things I’ve noticed is you’ve got to be willing to take risks and you’ve got to have an opinion. If you don’t, you’re not going to add to the broadcast. When you’re calling the fights live, all those zingers that you had in the gym you can let them roll now."
And as far as Healy goes, Stann admits his comment was pretty much right on the money.
"I still think it’s Pat Healy. I’ve seen Tito (Ortiz’s) up close next to mine and they are both large buckets, but I think for a guy who cuts to 155-pounds, Pat Healy’s head is as big if not a little bit bigger than mine," Stann said with a laugh.
Stann’s new gig has given him a lot to be thankful for after he called it a career last year and stepped away from active competition following 18 professional fights. There’s always going to be that itch that Stann would love to scratch for just one more fight inside the Octagon, but if there’s a close second it’s calling the action cage side.
"It’s made it a little easier that it’s a new challenge and it’s exciting to be around it, but every time I’m at these fights and the music hits the speakers and I see these guys walk out there, I really do miss it. Every time I’m at a live fight, I have to fight back and leaning over and telling Joe Silva ‘sign me up’," Stann said.
"If I could do anything and this includes calling football, I would call fights."