Brian Stann is approaching a crossroads in his mixed martial arts career.
The 32-year-old former Marine and Silver Star medal recipient has been trading leather inside the cage for the better part of a decade, garnering acclaim for his knockout power and tenacity along the way. While the former WEC light heavyweight champion struggled to gain traction under the UFC banner after dropping down into the middleweight division, "The All-American" worked his way to contender status in the 185-pound weight class.
Stann made his way up the divisional ladder by winning three consecutive bouts, two of which came by way of stoppage over the likes of Chris Leben and journeyman Jorge Santiago. Unfortunately for the Pennsylvania-based fighter, that momentum would come to a halt in his next outing against Chael Sonnen at UFC 136 in Houston.
Despite getting back into the win column by knocking out Alessio Sakara in his next showing, Stann would see his position in the upper tier of the middleweight division fade as he suffered back-to-back losses to Michael Bisping and Wanderlei Silva.
While his most recent bout against "The Axe Murderer" was an instant classic and "Fight of the Year" candidate, another notch in the loss column was a difficult blow for the ultra-competitive Stann to handle, and has brought him to a place in his career where a decision has to be made.
That being said, Stann believes there is plenty of time to assess the future of his mixed martial arts career. And while those decisions will undoubtedly come in the future, Stann has shifted his focus to the here and now, which is his position as an analyst for the UFC for the promotion's events on Fox and Fuel TV.
Since joining the broadcast team, Stann's easy presentation and educated delivery has been warmly received by the UFC fan base. He will resume those duties this weekend when UFC on Fuel TV 9 kicks off from Stockholm, Sweden, where he hopes to deliver another solid performance.
While the role is certainly a departure from mixing it up with the world's best fighters inside the cage, the position presents plenty of interesting challenges for Stann.
"I take the preparation for this job very seriously," Stann told Bleacher Report. "What I look for when I'm breaking down a fighter is how to convey what is happening in a fight, or what I think is going to happen, in a manner the fans can understand. At the same time, I want to do it in a way that will help to educate the more casual fans who don't understand that much about technique.
"It kills me when I watch certain fights and I hear fans booing. Or you are in a place and you hear someone say a fight sucks because you know it is actually a great fight. I'm watching it and know it's going back and forth like a chess match and I want to educate the fans so they can find some of the more technical fights more enjoyable because they will be able to understand what is happening.
"The part that I find most challenging in the entire process is to ensure that I don't insult any of the fighters you are breaking down. Of course when you are talking sports it never should be that way. But let's be honest. When you get to this level of the sport and you are fighting in the UFC; you take it very personal. When you hear somebody breaking down your skills, saying you aren't that good in a certain aspect, no fighter can help becoming a little bit resentful.
"I think that is important because anyone who gets to this level is obviously one of the best in the world at their craft. I think they should be recognized as that. I think there is a way to analyze and breakdown fighters and be honest about their skills while still being respectful."
In the realm of mixed martial arts, a fighter can develop and progress his skills on a day-to-day basis through rigorous training inside the gym. The conditions are a bit different on the broadcasting side of things, and in some cases, fighters can be a bit shaky when they take up the analyst role.
In that regard Stann hit the ground running. And while he has never had any formal television training, he believes his military career provided all the preparation he needed.
"It hasn't been that difficult getting used to working in front of a camera," Stann said. "I certainly can't say I'm a natural or anything. But I think the reason it comes a little bit easy to me in that regard is because I've had to do a ton of public speaking throughout my career in the military.
"The Naval Academy is basically a leadership factory and you are constantly having to talk in front of a crowd. Obviously being a Marine Corps officer every day is public speaking. When you are in command of hundreds of Marines and constantly giving presentations, I think I have a lot of experience in that field and that made it an easier transition when coming into broadcasting and analysis."
When Stann steps on set to work analysis for UFC on Fuel TV 9, it comes just north of a month since his most recent fight against Silva. Stann squared off with "The Axe Murderer" in an epic, back-and-forth scrap for the ages, with Silva earning the second-round TKO victory.
In his post-fight interview, Stann told Jon Anik he was going to take some time to think about his future in the sport. And while several weeks have passed since the tilt, Stann is in no hurry to determine his future in mixed martial arts.
"I'm probably right in that same status as I was following the fight," Stann said. "I have a few lingering injuries but I'm still in the gym helping guys train and doing some coaching as well. It's difficult and I think it is important to disconnect as a fighter because you can make rash and emotional decisions in the moment.
"You see it where a guy will say he's done fighting or he's taking time off, but then he's right back at it. For me, there are a lot of things for me to weigh out. There have been a lot of changes in my life in the last two years. Having to change training camps, not because I wanted to, but because of family issues. My wife is pregnant with what will be our third child and there are a lot of things going on in my personal life where I need some time away from fighting. Time away from training intensely to focus on the things I need to focus on and I will make a decision from there."
"It was very difficult," Stann added when he described trying to balance his emotions after the fight. "Even my wife couldn't understand it when she heard me talk about the fight. It really is nice when fans come up and thank you for putting on a great performance, giving that much effort and saying they were really entertained. That really does mean an awful lot to me.
"But people will say there are no losers in a fight like that and I will remind them that actually there are. I have another loss next to my record and I didn't get my win bonus. That's money that is not in my family's bank account and money that is not going towards the financial goals that I have for my family. Trust me, there are losers in fights like that.
"I haven't found any more comfort than I would naturally just because it was an exciting fight. A loss is still a loss. I'm glad I was able to put on the type of performance the UFC expects from people they put in main events. That was important to me. When you book me in a main event, that meant something to me and there was no way I was going to go in there and be conservative."
Whether Stann's future involves several more performances inside the Octagon or a career sitting at the broadcast table, he will approach his profession with full focus.
"I'm not going to commit my name to something and not have it be done 100 percent," Stann said. "Whatever I do, I go all out and do it with everything I have. But I'm not rushing any decisions. Some times you just need to step away from the fight game and take a break. I'm going to spend some time with my family and let the chips fall, but there is no way I'm going to do anything without giving 100 percent."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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