Stann balances respect for Silva with need for victory

When Brian Stann steps into the cage with Wanderlei Silva tonight, he will be fully aware that he is staring down a legend on the grounds where he became one of the most famous fighters ever.

Stann has prepared for that.

“You watch enough film and visualize enough so that you don’t get in there and see him rolling his wrists around for the Japanese crowd and get caught up in the moment,” Stann said. “I’ve got to go out there and look him in the eyes and know this is what I’m here for.

“After the fight, I definitely want to get pictures and exchange T-shirts and do all that stuff, but until then I’ve got to be all business.”

Stann, 32, and Silva, 36, will fight in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 8 in Saitama, Japan. The card takes place Sunday in Japan in order to air live at 7 p.m. today in Las Vegas on Fuel (Cable 319).

Silva is nearing the end of a legendary career. Success has been tough to come by in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but the Las Vegas resident was one of the biggest stars in the now-defunct, Japan-based Pride Fighting Championships.

Stann, a former football player at Navy and decorated war veteran, didn’t become a mixed martial arts fan until around 2004, but he quickly became a fan of Silva, who was in his prime.

“At that time, and still today, he is one of the biggest names in the sport,” Stann said. “I would watch him fight and just shake my head and say, ‘Wow, look at how this guy fights. It’s amazing.’

“This will be one of those fights that I hang pictures up in my house and tell people about years from now.”

As special as the fight is to Stann, he also knows he needs to win. He has fallen out of title contention with losses in two of his past three bouts, to Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping. He still hopes to get back into the mix at 185 pounds, though this fight will be contested at 205 due to a request from Silva to not cut weight.

It’s unclear how much a win over an aging Silva would help him in the rankings, but Stann said the chance to fight such a big name and do it in a main event was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“It’s one of those dream fights,” Stann said. “It’s one of those fights where you get to fight an active legend. He’s a future Hall of Famer in the UFC, one of the greatest fighters ever. It’s really cool. I’m trying not to be too nostalgic because I have to go in there and I want to perform and dominate the fight, but it’s really an honor. When you get to fight a guy like Wanderlei, who’s so ferocious in competition and such a great fighter and still such a gentleman outside the cage, it’s just a great fight.”

The Japanese crowd is expected to be in a frenzy when Silva walks to the cage in the country for the first time since 2006.

Stann has his own connection to the country.

The “All-American” was born on Yakota Air Base in Japan. His family moved when he was less than a year old, and this is the first time he has returned to the nation.

“I’m hoping to go check out the air base where I was born, and I’ll see a few sites here and there, and then I have a full day after the fight to do some special things here and collect some items for my family,” he said. “It’s all really cool.”

His sightseeing would be much better if he leaves the cage with a victory.

The card includes a heavyweight bout between Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve, and a lightweight fight pitting Takanori Gomi against Diego Sanchez.

Also, Yushin Okami will meet Hector Lombard in a middleweight bout.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

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