Ultimate Fighting champion Evan Tanner found dead


His body is discovered in a remote desert area of Imperial County. Authorities say he apparently -succumbed to the elements.-

Evan Tanner, a champion in the brutal sport of Ultimate Fighting whose career was undermined by alcohol abuse, was found dead in a remote desert area of Imperial County, the county-s coroner said today.

Authorities had been searching for the 37-year-old fighter after friends reported losing contact with him Friday.

A body was found Monday night and identified this morning as the fighter, who often went on camping trips to the desert seeking solitude.

Authorities started looking for Tanner after receiving a call from his friends that he was no longer text-messaging them, said Imperial County Sheriff-s Lt. George Moreno. A Marine Corps helicopter from the base at Yuma aided in the search.

Tanner-s camp and motorcycle were found in an area near the Palo Verde Valley, and his body was found several miles away. Authorities speculate that Tanner-s motorcycle may have broken down and that he was attempting to walk to safety.

There was no sign of foul play, Moreno said. “It looks like he succumbed to the elements,” he said.

Tanner, at 6-feet tall and 185 pounds, was known for his aggressive style that intimidated opponents. He rose to the top of the mixed martial arts competition, winning championships in this country and Japan.

Born in Amarillo, Texas, Tanner was a champion wrestler in high school. After turning professional, he won titles as a middleweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and a heavyweight in the U.S. Wrestling Federation. He was 32-8 as a professional.

He lived in Oceanside and later in Gresham, Ore. Recently he had trained in Las Vegas for a possible comeback.

On his website, Tanner told friends Aug. 15 that he was going camping in a spot so remote that “any failure of my equipment could cost me my life.”

Temperatures have exceeded 110 degrees in recent days in the desert region, where water is scarce and cellphone connections patchy.

“I-ve been a traveler my entire life, constantly on the move, searching for new adventures, seeking knowledge, looking for the truth of things,” Tanner wrote on the website recently. “It has been my way of life.”

Tanner talked on the site of the turmoil in his life, including problems with drinking, money and relationships with women.

Mixed martial arts has gained popularity among mainstream sports fans in the last decade, predominantly through the success of the UFC. Barefooted fighters in fingerless gloves use a combination of boxing, wrestling, jujitsu, karate, judo and kickboxing while competing in an eight-sided cage or traditional boxing ring.

In his first 12 fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championships, Tanner-s only losses came against Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin.

He won his UFC middleweight title in February 2005, scoring an upset victory via first-round technical knockout over David Terrell at UFC 51. Tanner lost the belt four months later in a rematch against Franklin.

Following a two-year layoff in which Tanner suffered public bouts of alcohol addiction, he returned to the ring in March against Yushin Okami at UFC 82 but was knocked out by a kick to the head.

He made his final appearance in the UFC in June, losing a split decision to Kendall Grove in the final of “The Ultimate Fighter 7” in Las Vegas. It was his fourth loss in his last five fights and probably spelled the end of his UFC career.

Grove today remembered shaking Tanner-s hand after their fight and seeing disappointment in his eyes.

Grove said his first thought when he woke this morning was to airbrush a portrait of Tanner on a wall in his house.

“Nobody expected him to be the champion, and he did it,” Grove said.

“The sport lost a great, great guy. Not only as a fighter but a person too.”


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