UFC Champ Evan Tanner Found Dead

Fighter succumbs to desert heat during spiritual cleansing

Getty Images

UFC star Evan Tanner may have predicted his own demise. The 37 year old middleweight champion went on a camping trip last week in the Palo Verde, Calif. mountains and died after straying too far from camp in stiflingstifiling desert heat.

Tanner had journeyed into the desert as part of a "cleansing" ritual. He made similar treks over the years and was considered an avid outdoors man by those who knew him. He posted to his Spike TV blog about this trip where he left an ominous message to fans.

“I plan on going so deep into the desert, that any failure of my equipment, could cost me my life,” he said. “I’ve been doing a great deal of research and study. I want to know all I can about where I’m going, and I want to make sure I have the best equipment.”

Tanner had apparently told friends before he left that if they did not hear from him in a couple of days, they should call the sheriff's department. He stopped responding to text messages around Sept. 3 and friends called the Imperial County Sheriff's Department on Sept. 5. Eventually the U.S. Marines deployed helicopters and on Monday located the body two miles from his camp. 

"What we were told is that (sheriff's officials who found him) believe his motorcycle had run out of gas," said Douglas Vincitorio of Tanner's management team. "so he went to walk out in like 115 to 118-degree heat. He was miles away from his camp. That's where the helicopter found him. Right now, they just think that he succumbed to the heat."

After fans showed concern at his message of possibly perishing in the desert, Tanner backed off his statments in another blog post.

“This isn’t a version of ‘Into the Wild,’” he wrote. “I’m not going out into the desert with a pair of shorts and a bowie knife, to try to live off the land. I’m going fully geared up, and I’m planning on having some fun.”

But he also affirmed that things could go wrong if his equipment wasn’t up to snuff.

“I do plan on going back pretty far, so I did mention in one of my posts that I wanted to make sure to have good quality gear,” he said. “Any failure of gear out in the desert could cause a problem.”

Tanner's record in UFC fighting was 34-8. According to the UFC site, his biggest win came at UFC 51 on February 5, 2005, when he stopped David Terrell in the first round to win the UFC middleweight championship.

Tanner would lose the belt to Rich Franklin in his first defense four months later, but the fans never abandoned him, and he returned that admiration, both in person and through his Internet blogs.

Contact Us