Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly Sherdog.com series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it.
“The Lone Star State” has produced plenty of top-flight mixed martial artists, none of them more accomplished than former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Evan Tanner.
Born in Amarillo, Texas, on Feb. 11, 1971, Tanner started his prizefighting career in Toughman contests before moving to sanctioned MMA events. He ripped up the regional circuit and won 19 of his first 20 bouts, losing only to Heath Herring. Tanner became the first American to win the Pancrase Neo-Blood Tournament in 1998 and went on to sign with the UFC. He went 3-0 inside the Octagon before earning a shot at light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz at UFC 30 on Feb. 23, 2001. Ortiz knocked out the Texan with a vicious slam in just 30 seconds.
Four years later, Tanner parlayed victories over Phil Baroni (twice) and Robbie Lawler into a showdown with David Terrell for the vacant UFC middleweight crown. He stopped Terrell with punches 4:35 into the first round at UFC 51 to capture the 185-pound championship. Tanner soon after surrendered the title to Rich Franklin and lost four of his final five bouts, finishing his career with a 32-8 record. He died at the age of 37 on Sept. 5, 2008 after getting stranded in the desert near Palo Verde, California.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Yves Edwards, Heath Herring, Joseph Benavidez, Leonard Garcia, Sage Northcutt