Brian “All-American” Stann is set to meet Chael Sonnen on the main card of UFC 136: Edgar vs. Maynard 3 this Saturday, October 8, at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. The former U.S. Marine Corps Captain spoke with FightLine recently while he was preparing for that fight.
Hey Brian, how are you? I know you’re busy, so I’ll try not to keep you long, I just have a few questions for you.
First off, you’re training exclusively with Team Jackson for this fight, correct?
Well, I wouldn’t say that. I travel home on weekends to spend time with my daughters when they’re not in Albuquerque with me. And I do train with Team Roberto Traven in Atlanta for my jiu-jitsu.
You guys have quite the roster over there, I’m wondering who your main training partners are normally, or who they’ve been for this camp?
Man, I tell you what, for this camp it’s just been amazing because everybody’s in camp. Me and Jon Jones have been training a lot together, obviously, I have similarities with Rampage, he’s (Jones) a great wrestler. Derek Brunson, who’s a two-time All-American wrestler and fights in Strikeforce, I’ve been training with him a lot. Israel Martinez, who’s a great wrestler and great wrestling coach from Chicago, he’s been down here training with me. A gentleman by the name of Shawn Jordan, who fights in Strikeforce, who’s a huge heavyweight, played in the NFL, two national championships as a fullback at LSU, but was also an All-American wrestler, he’s down here training with me as well. And then really, we have everybody else is in camp and in the gym training. I’ve had Keith Jardine, Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Joey Villasenor, Kyle Noke, you know, all these guys are around me training everyday. There’s no easy go, there’s no easy ground. I’ve got all these guys and different wrestlers we’ve brought in trying to take me down, trying to hold me down, trying to kick box with me, so it’s just been a great camp so far.
The winner between you and Sonnen will most likely be awarded a title shot. After seeing what Anderson Silva just did to Yushin Okami and what he’s been able to do to most every other contender that’s challenged for his title, what do you think separates you from the pack, would carry you to victory over The Spider?
My mental abilities. I think he intimidates a lot of guys, he scares a lot of guys. They fall. He is very crafty and he’s extraordinarily patient in the cage; that and the fact that I won’t fall to a lot of those things. I’m not gonna be afraid of him. There’s nothing he can do to me that I’m afraid of. And the other thing is just preparation. I don’t know anybody that trains harder than I do. I know what I’m willing to go through to prepare for a fight and I bring people in that I need, or I’ll study every ounce of tape. I try to train three, four times a day and my coaches have to kick me out of the gym at times. I’m willing to go through all of that through months and months and months in preparation for a fight. So, I think that’s what makes me different from his opponents, but I haven’t given that much thought at all. I have a huge obstacle in my way right now in Chael Sonnen.
Do you believe that Silva established himself as the pound-for-pound best with that victory?
I don’t know if I buy into the whole pound-for-pound rankings system to be quite honest with you, but if you’re talking about the most skilled fighter in the sport overall, I definitely think he does. He’s shown some things in his wrestling game that he’s very skilled, he’s shown some great things in his jiu-jitsu game and his striking is obviously masterful and his ability to integrate all those things and win – I mean, it’s hard enough to go on a two-fight win streak in the UFC , let alone how many darn fights this guy’s won in a row. So, in my eyes, he’s the greatest fighter of all time.
Your upcoming opponent Chael Sonnen is no slouch either.
(Laughs) No, he’s pretty darn good.
I know you won’t give up your strategy, but what do you see are some exploitable areas of Sonnen’s game?
Well, I don’t think Chael likes to get hit. I don’t know it for a fact, but I gotta watch tape and it’s one of those things – I don’t know if anybody likes getting hit, to be quite honest with you, so, it’s not like it’s derogatory toward him. The big thing is he’s masterful at putting the fight in positions where he does damage to his opponent and doesn’t take damage. I have to put this fight and I have to make this fight in the positions where I’m doing damage to him. It’s as simple as that. If I allow him to grind me down, turn it into a wrestling match, to control me and have his onslaught of ground and pound, then I’m going to lose the fight. So, I can’t allow that to happen. There’s no secret to his gameplan or mine.
Obviously you wouldn’t want to see him get the shot by beating you, but, as a fan, would you be interested in seeing Silva vs. Sonnen 2?
Oh, absolutely. After I beat both of them I’d love for them to fight.
How do you think it would go a second time?
I don’t know. I don’t know how injured Anderson was in that first fight and I think he’s got the means and the abilities to not make the same mistakes twice and bring in the right guys he’s gonna need to prepare for Chael. So, I think it will be a tougher fight all the way around, but the bottom line is, when I watch all of Chael’s fights, as I’ve done, I haven’t seen anybody beat the guy up yet. When Chael loses, he’s usually kicking some guy’s butt and then they catch him in something. I don’t think he’s ever lost by decision and he’s never been knocked out. So, it would be very tough. I just think that Chael is the toughest match up on the planet for Anderson, stylistically.
And, I’m not looking forward to seeing part two of that fight anytime soon, because I wanna go beat Chael Sonnen on October 8.
And then go beat Anderson Silva?
Or whoever they put in front of me. If it’s Anderson Silva, then I’m the luckiest man on Earth. If it’s not, then whoever else they put in front of me. I don’t care. All I’m focused on right now is Chael. Beat the man in front of me and then I’ll let the UFC sort the rest out.
So, they haven’t actually told you guys that this would for sure be a title eliminator?
No, I haven’t heard that at all from Dana White and I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care. I can’t control any of that. I don’t want to focus on anything that’s out of my control. Only thing that’s in my control right now is my effort and preparation everyday before the fight and then my performance inside the octagon that night. That’s it.
With more and more Strikeforce fighters coming to the UFC, would you be interested in fighting Tim Kennedy in a Marine vs. Green Beret superfight for bragging rights for your respective branches of service?
Never. That fight will never happen. It’s just a different relationship between me and Tim. Would it be a great fight? Sure. It is a great fight. Come down to Jackson’s and watch us get after it – and me and Tim absolutely get after it. It’s great because Tim is one of the best grapplers in the world and he has so much to share with me there and obviously, I’m one of the top strikers in the middleweight division and there’s so much I can share with him there. There’s a bond there, where although me and Tim haven’t known each other for a huge amount of time, there’s just a different bond that we have there with each other and respect level that, we’re not gonna go in there and compete against one another. We’re always gonna help one another for it. We really enjoy each other’s company, even though our personalities are so different. It helps us get along. Tim’s one of those guys – I’m sometimes ultra-serious and Tim is a guy who can always make me smile, make me laugh, make me take things a little less serious. He’s a great guy to have around and a great friend.
Is that how you feel about all of your teammates at Jackson’s, that you won’t fight your teammates?
No, I mean, I don’t want to fight any of my teammates and I hope it never happens, but at the end of the day, if I have a belt or somebody has a belt and that teammate calls me – you don’t get title shots often in this sport. Ninety percent of the fighters who do this sport at this level, in the UFC, never get a title shot. And the money associated with a title shot and the career achievement of just fighting for the title are very important. So, it would be difficult for me to say I’ll never fight a teammate, because if there’s a belt on the line, there can only be one champion. Who am I to tell my teammate, if I have the belt, ‘You can’t fight me for it because we’re teammates.’ That’s bullshit. You gotta put that aside. We fight each other every day in the damn gym, we’re gonna do it for a belt. Do I hope that situation never arises? I do, I hope it never arises. But, if it had to, it would be something that me and that teammate would sit down and talk about it and figure it out. At the end of the day, there can be only one champion in this sport and who knows what gym that champion trains out of?
I know you’re willing to take on all comers, but what would be a dream fight for you? Jeff Monson?
No, it’s not Jeff Monson. (laughs) That’s what happens when you get bored and stupid. You push out dumb, judgemental Tweets that you shouldn’t. An absolute dream fight for me would be a guy obviously like Anderson Silva, the greatest of all time. Chris Leben was a dream fight for me, just cause I have a lot of respect for what he does inside the cage. Vitor Belfort would be a dream fight. Obviously, guys who would want to go in there and slug it out and do things like that are always gonna be the fights that are most fun for me. The guys who really have meant something to this sport and have done something to create this amazing sport that allows guys like me to come in and do it. That’s why I’d ask to fight Anderson Silva. And Chael Sonnen’s one of those guys. These guys have been around for a long time and they’ve built this great sport on their shoulders with blood, sweat and tears by putting on amazing, amazing performances that have made this the fastest growing sport and, in my opinion, the greatest sport in the world. And so, to go in there and have the honor of fighting them and just giving it my best, win, lose or draw would be a career achievement for me. And I think that’s what this sport is all about. I mean, there’s nothing that’s gonna happen to me in the octagon that I’m afraid of. I’d much rather lose when I’m going for the win and going for the finish than get grinded out to a decision because I didn’t let it all hang out.
At this point, I’ll open it up for you to plug any sponsors you’d like to.
TRX Force Tactical Suspension Trainer has really been a special partner of mine. I’ve associated myself with companies that are like this and TRX is no different, they’ve just been fantastic. They sent their head of human performance down to Albuquerque to help me train for this fight. Since they knew I used this system, he wanted to design workouts for me that were specific to this fight and different muscle groups they knew we were gonna need. And then things that were gonna keep me healthy, increase my flexibility – they were awesome. That cost them a lot of money to send Chris Frankel down to Albuquerque and train with me. Aside from all that, they’ve done some great things with the military. The military is really trying to find different ways to condition their warriors and TRX has been a huge part of that.
TRX is throwing up this mission readiness test, where you can do max repetitions of these for exercises for this test and they’re gonna see who’s the most fit warrior in each service and then have them compete against each other. So, it’s really pretty cool and I’m glad to be involved in that. And lastly, what’s really special and near and dear to my heart, is that TRX has gotten behind the charity I run, Hire Heroes USA and sponsor Hire Heroes USA’s Marine Corps marathon team and they’re helping us take a stand and fighting against veteran unemployment in these tough economic times. It’s really special to me that TRX didn’t just come on board and ask me to wear their logo, they knew I loved the product and was already using the product. That’s why they approached me as an athlete and, not only did they want to get involved, they wanted their trainers to help me use it even more efficiently, specifically for my fighting style and then they get behind my charity as well. It’s a dream come true. How many fighters have sponsors that do that kind of thing?