Former Marine Capt. Brian Stann knocks down Jorge Santiago in the second round of their middleweight MMA fight on May 28 in Las Vegas. Stann won by TKO. (Julie Jacobson / The Associated Press)
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To chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" a former Marine and Iraq war hero crushed a leading mixed martial arts contender at an Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view event May 28 in Las Vegas.
Middleweight Brian "All American" Stann pummeled Brazilian Jorge Santiago, earning a second-round knockout in front of some vocal supporters.
"I did hear those chants. Obviously, it's a career moment," Stann told reporters in a post-fight news conference, revealing that among those cheering him on were members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, often known as SEAL Team 6. "They were actually here tonight. So it was an honor."
The crowds, he added, "weren't just chanting for me. In bars and people's houses across America where people were chanting — that's credit to be bestowed on the men and women who serve this country."
Santiago was the reigning middleweight champion of a major Japanese MMA circuit before joining the UFC last year. He went into the fight at UFC 130 against Stann with 23 wins under his muay thai and jujitsu black belts.
But it was Stann, a former Naval Academy linebacker, who took home the win and $116,000 — a $23,000 purse, a $23,000 win bonus and a $70,000 "Fight of the Night" bonus.
The win has vaulted Stann (11-3) to the No. 7 slot on MMAWeekly's World Top 10 ranking of middleweights.
"He's on his way to becoming a superstar," UFC President Dana White told reporters.
Stann was quick to shoot down suggestions that he take on http://militarytimes.com/blogs/afteraction/tag/tim-kennedy/">Tim Kennedy, another rising former military star on the UFC circuit.
"I can tell you right now, that's a fight that will never interest me," Stann said. "Tim is a very close friend. We're cut from the same cloth. I don't see a point. Neither one of us would really be interested in fighting unless it was what we had to do."
Stann http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=3767">earned a Silver Star while serving as a mobile assault platoon leader in 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, after a six-day running gunfight near Karabilah, Iraq, in 2005. He left active duty three years later to pursue his MMA career.
Stann says he thinks he'll need two more years to reach his peak. He'll likely do much of the work in a new gym he's opening with a fellow Marine and MMA fighter near Atlanta this summer.
"There are still so many areas where I can still continue to get better," Stann said. "And that makes me dangerous to anyone else that's going to fight me."