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Evan Tanner was born on February 11, 1971 in Amarillo, Texas. Tanner wrestled for the first time in his sophomore year at Caprock High School, and eventually won the state championshihp during both his junior and senior year. He went on to attend college, but dropped out because he felt he was not recieving the education he was looking for.

Mixed Martial Arts Career


Tanner started fighting MMA in 1997 after his friends convinced him to enter a local tournament run by the Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation. In one night, Tanner won three fights, including a victory against future UFC Heavyweight Champion Paul Buentello, and went on to win the tournament. After his succes at local tournaments, Tanner taught himself grappling and submission techniques by watching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu home videos and continued winning local tournaments before traveling to Japan to compete in the Pancrase organization. He won five fights in Japan along with another USWF tournament and was eventually asked to join the UFC.


Tanner made his UFC debut as a Light Heavyweight in 1999 at UFC 18, submitting Darrell Gholar in the first round. After defeating Gholar, Tanner fought against Valerie Ignatov in UFC 19 and Lance Gibson in UFC 29, winning both fights by TKO. After accumulating a 2-0 UFC record, and a 22-2 overall record, Tanner was awarded with a title fight against then Light Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz. However, Tanner was knocked out in the first 32 seconds after being slammed to the ground by Ortiz.

Tanner after winning the UFC Middleweight Championship
Tanner after winning the UFC Middleweight Championship

Devastated by the loss to Ortiz, Tanner trained harder, and won three fights in a row against Homer Moore (UFC 34), Elvis Sinosic (UFC 36) and Chris Hasseman (UFC 38). After loosing to Rich Franklin at UFC 42 by TKO in the first round, Tanner decided to drop weight classes and moved to the Middleweight division.

Upon his move to Middleweight, he won against Phil Baroni in both UFC 45 and UFC 48, and against Robbie Lawler in UFC 50. Because of his success in the Middleweight division, Tanner was given a chance to win the vacant UFC Middleweight Champion title against David Terrell at UFC 51. After loosing his mouthpiece early and almost being submitted, Tanner eventually brought the game to the ground, and won by TKO. Tanner was now the UFC Middleweight Champion.

Tanner was granted the right to avenge his loss to Rich Franklin in UFC 42 by facing him again at UFC 53, his first fight as UFC Middleweight Champion. Despite knocking Franklin down in the first round, Tanner lost the fight when the ringside doctor stopped the fight. Tanner lost not only his Middleweight title, but also becoming a coach in The Ultimate Fighter 2, where Franklin became the host. Tanner also lost his next fight at Ultimate Fight Night 2 against David Loiseau by TKO. In what would end up becoming the last win of his career, Tanner defeated Justin Levens by submission at UFC 59.

After the fight, Tanner decided to take a two year break where he opened up his own training camp at his house. During that time off, however, Tanner developed alcohol abuse, but eventually came over it and made his return to the UFC in March of 2008 at UFC 82, lossing to Yushin Okami by KO. In his last fight, Tanner lost to Kendall Grove by split decision at the Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale. After the fight Tanner wondered if two years of alcohol abuse had damaged his body past the point where he could still repeated announced he would retire after finishing his contract with the UFC. Tanner's final MMA record was 32-8.


In his second-to-last entry on his Spike TV blog, Tanner wrote:

I'm hoping that very soon I'll be sitting out in the quiet of the desert beneath a deep blue midnight sky, listening to the calm desert breeze. The idea going into the desert came to me soon after I moved to Oceanside. It was motivated by my friend Sara's talk of treasure hunting and lost gold, and my own insatiable appetite for adventure and exploration. I began to imagine what might be found in the deep reaches of the untracked desert. It became an obsession of sorts.

"Treasure" doesn't necessarily refer to something material.

Today I ran to the store to pick up a few things, and with the lonesome, quiet desert thoughts on my mind, I couldn't help but be struck with their brutally stark contrast to my current surroundings, the amazing congestion in which we exist day to day. The landscape as far as I could see, crowded, choked, with me and the rest of the species, and almost writhing mass of organisms, fighting over space and resources, ...on the highways, in the parking lots, on the sidewalks, and in the ailse of the stores. And to think, there are still places in the world where man has not been, where he has left no footprints, where the mysteries stand secure, untouched by human eyes. I want to go to these places, the quiet, timeless, ageless places, and sit, letting silence and solitued be my teachers.

I've been gathering my gear for this adventure for over a month, not a long time by most standards, but far too long for my impatient nature. Being a minimalist by nature, wanting to carry only the essentials, and being extremely particular, it has been a little difficult to find just the right equipment. I plan on going so deep into the desert, that any failure of my equipment, could cost me my life. I've been doing a great deal of research and study. I want to know all I can about where I'm going, and I want to make sure I have the best equipment.

One more week. I think one more week, and I'll be ready to go.
Suspicions have risen over Tanner's death.
Suspicions have risen over Tanner's death.

On September 3, 2008, Tanner rode out on his newly purchased dirt bike to go camping at Clapp Springs in Brawley, California. That afternoon, Tanner text messaged his friends that his bike had run out of gas in the middle of the desert and he planned on walking back to camp. He told his friend that if they had not heard from him by 8:00 am on September 5, to contact authorities. Temperatures got as high as 118° during those two days. After Tanner stopped responding to text messages, Tanner's friends called for help.

On September 6, a unit of SAR Marines found Tanner's planned campsite. At the campsite, they found Tanner's dirt bike, "additional provisions of water," and a trail of footprints left by Tanner. On September 8, Marines found Tanner's body approximately 1.2 miles away from the campsite at 12:33 pm. Near Tanner was an empty water bottle taken from his supply of water at the campsite. A coroner determined Tanner's time of death to be between 9:00 pm on September 4 and 7:00 am on September 5. Evan Tanner was 37.

Controversy Over Death

Some people believed Tanner planned his death. His Myspace profile featured the song "Guarenteed" from the movie "Into the Wild," where a man lives in the wilderness for nine months to find spirutal peace and eventually dies. His second-to-last blog post also foreshadowed the events leading up to his death:

"Treasure" doesn't necessarily refer to something material.
I plan on going so deep into the desert, that any failure of my equipment, could cost me my life.

Reports of Tanner arriving and then leaving his planed camp site have also made people suspicious of Tanner's true intentions in the desert. Tanner's friends and family insist that Tanner did not plan his death.


Tanner has been remembered fondly in death as a pinoeer in MMA, and one of the first fighters to die since the sport gained it's popularity.

A documentary about Tanner's life, travels and philosophy was made by Tapout Films, and premiered in competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2011.

MMA Record

Loss32-8Kendall GroveDecision (split)The Ultimate Fighter 7 FinaleJune 21, 200835:00
Loss32-7Yushin OkamiKO (knee)UFC 82March 1, 200823:00
Win32-6Justin LevensSubmission (triangle choke)UFC 59April 15, 200613:14
Loss31-6David LoiseauTKO (cuts)UFC Ultimate Fight Night 2October3,200524:15
Loss31-5Rich FranklinTKO (doctor stoppage)UFC 53June 4, 200543:25Lost UFC Middleweight Championship
Win31-4David TerrellTKO (punches)UFC 51February 5, 200514:35Won vacant UFC Middleweight Championship
Win30-4Robbie LawlerSubmission (triangle choke)UFC 50October 22, 200412:22
Win29-4Phil BaroniDecision (unanimous)UFC 48June 19, 200435:00
Win28-4Phil BaroniTKO (punches)UFC 45November 21, 200314:42Drops to 185 lbs.
Loss27-4Rich FranklinTKO (punches)UFC 42April 25, 200312:40
Win27-3Shannon RitchSubmission (triangle choke)FCFF - Fighting Against CancerFebruary 15, 200312:19
Win26-3Chris HasemanDecision (unanimous)UFC 38July 13, 200235:00
Win25-3Elvis SinosicTKO (cut)UFC 36March 22, 200212:06
Win24-3Homer MooreSubmission (armbar)UFC 34November 2, 200120:55
Loss23-3Tito OrtizKO (slam)UFC 30February 23, 200110:32For UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Win23-2Lance GibsonTKO (punches and elbows)UFC 29December 16, 200014:48
Win22-2Travis FultonSubmission (triangle choke)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 18November 25, 200014:38Defended USWF Heavyweight Title
Win21-2Raoul RomeroTKO (punches)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 17July 17, 200016:59Defended USWF Heavyweight Title
Win20-2Vinny NixonSubmission (keylock)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 14April 24, 199911:07Defended USWF Heavyweight Title
Loss19-2Leon DijkTKO (knees and palm strikes)Pancrase: Breakthrough 4April 18, 1999111:39
Win19-1Mike CizekSubmission (punches)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 13March 20, 199912:06Defended USWF Heavyweight Title
Win18-1Valeri IgnatovTKO (elbows)UFC 19March 5, 199912:58
Win17-1Darrel GholarSubmission (rear naked choke)UFC 18January 8, 199917:57
Win16-1Ryushi YanagisawaSubmission (arm-triangle choke)Pancrase: Advance 12December 19, 199812:24
Win15-1Gene LydickSubmission (rear naked choke)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 12October 24, 199814:15Defended USWF Heavyweight Title
Win14-1Kiuma KuniokuDecision (lost points)Pancrase 1998: Anniversary ShowSeptember 14, 1998120:00
Win13-1Justin McCullySubmission (kimura)Pancrase 1998 Neo-Blood Tournament, Round 2July 26, 199815:07
Win12-1Kousei KubotaSubmission (arm-triangle choke)Pancrase 1998 Neo-Blood Tournament, Round 1July 7, 199812:23
Win11-1Ikuhisa MinowaSubmission (arm-triangle choke)Pancrase 1998 Neo-Blood Tournament, Round 1July 7, 199814:05
Win10-1Tony CastilloTKO (knees)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 9June 20, 199814:06Defended USWF Heavyweight Title
Win9-1Dennis ReedSubmission (triangle choke)Gladiators 2April 18, 199811:20
Win8-1Wade KroezeTKO (knees)Gladiators 2April 18, 199811:00
Win7-1Rusty TottySubmission (arm-triangle choke)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 8March 28, 199811:36Defended USWF Heavyweight Title
Loss6-1Heath HerringSubmission (rear naked choke)PSDANovember 22, 199718:20
Win6-0Jesse GonzalezSubmission (ezekiel choke)PSDANovember 22, 199711:15
Win5-0Joe FraileySubmission (punches)PSDANovember 22, 199710:56
Win4-0Heath HerringSubmission (exhaustion)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 7October 18, 199716:19Won USWF Heavyweight Title
Win3-0Paul BuentelloSubmission (rear naked choke)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 4April 12, 199712:20
Win2-0Gary NaborsSubmission (keylock)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 4April 12, 199712:21
Win1-0Mike KennedySubmission (palm strikes)Unified Shoot Wrestling Federation 4April 12, 199711:29

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