It just wasn’t until Thursday that he let the public in on his decision to step away from mixed martial arts after an eight-year career that ultimately concluded with a loss to Wanderlei Silva at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in March.
“I said it that night,” Stann told FOX Sports. “I told my coach I was done. I train really, really hard. I put everything into it. But it’s been difficult since the death of my brother-in-law a couple years ago. It’s been a real challenge. I could no longer go to Albuquerque to train at Jackson’s (MMA gym). (Greg) Jackson, (Mike) Winkeljohn and all the other coaches developed me into a top-10 fighter.”
Stann — who held the WEC light heavyweight title and had a 12-6 pro record — also fell into a new career in recent months, first as a FOX Sports UFC analyst for broadcasts on FUEL TV and FX. Those turns in front of the camera led to a new opportunity: analyst for ACC football games for FOX Sports South, a move that was announced on Wednesday.
Stann, 32, is a former linebacker at the Naval Academy. He went on to become a decorated Marine, earning the Silver Star for his actions when his platoon was ambushed in Iraq in 2005.
The toll football, war and MMA also factored into his decision to step away from the Octagon. Stann said while he hasn’t had any symptoms from repeated head trauma, he wanted to limit the chances he would end of like so many others in contact sports who suffer from memory loss, depression and other ailments.
“I played football from second grade on,” Stann said. “Then after football, I went to Iraq and was near several explosions and then there was my eight-year MMA career. I just want to reduce my risk for CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease) so I can enjoy my family. It’s tough.
“As a father of three, I can’t just think about me. It’s not about pride. It’s not about glory. It’s not about personal goals. My No. 1 job in life is a husband and then a father. That’s not just about providing for them. I want to enjoy every moment with my kids.”
Stann, who lives in the Atlanta area, described himself as a long shot for his new ACC gig. FOX Sports put together a reel for him around Memorial Day and Stann hurriedly re-arranged a video shoot for a sponsor, the sports gear company Ranger Up, to make time for the audition. Having never done football analysis, he said he leaned on veteran play-by-play announcer Wes Durham.
“Wes did all the auditions and, now, I get to work with him,” Stann said. “This guys is phenomenal. He’s forgotten more about ACC football than I’ve ever know.”
Stann will remain an analyst as much of UFC’s broadcast content switches to FOX Sports 1 on Aug. 17. He said he’ll prepare for the football games just as he has for his UFC broadcast role, which mainly means studying lots of tape.
He’ll also remain dedicated to Hire Heroes USA, a charity that helps unemployed veterans find work. Stann serves as the non-profit’s president and CEO.
These varied interests all started when he was early in his MMA career, something that a mentor encouraged long ago.
“Fighting is a short-term career,” Stann said. “The life of a fighter is hard until you make it to the elite level. Coach Jackson always made fun of me for running out of the cage to hop on a conference call or something.”
He’ll no longer be spending nine weeks sparring and training as he enters retirement, but Stann said he’s not going away.
“I am grateful to the UFC, the fans and all the fighters I was able to work with,” Stann said. “The relationships and experiences I’ve had in the UFC have made me a much better person. I will forever be a martial artist and hope to continue my work representing the UFC on FOX and FOX Sports 1. I want to continue being an ambassador for this sport and the fighters.”