Review: Heart for the Fight by Brian Stann
The sport of mixed martial arts is not for the faint-hearted. With the threat of punches, kicks, elbows, knees and submission holds, MMA fighters need to be prepared for intense physical confrontation. One would expect stories of hand-to-hand combat inside of a cage to serve as some of the more nerve-wracking passages of any autobiography. But in Heart for the Fight, UFC fighter Brian Stann's soon to be released memoir, those stories are strikingly among the book's less harrowing moments.
Stann, an up-and-coming MMA fighter with a 9-3 record, served as a United States Marine before beginning his MMA career. His book recounts his days playing football at the Naval Academy, his service in Iraq, and his fighting career. While his fighting career has not been without drama, those battles pale in comparison to the stories in his book of dramatic firefights with militants in Iraq.
The most gripping stories in Stann's book are his struggles to protect fellow soldiers in combat. Stann was no stranger to dangerous situations and these tales make for a captivating firsthand look at the War in Iraq. Stann was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery commanding an ambushed platoon near Karabilah. He addresses his attitude throughout the endeavor, his concern for his fellow Marines and his perspective on the insurgents he battled.
While the chapters dedicated to Stann's military service are the strongest parts of the book, there are also interesting stories about Stann's childhood and an incident in the military where he was accused of rape.
MMA isn't the primary focus of the book, but Stann does discuss his fights with Steve Cantwell and relationship with MMA trainer Greg Jackson in depth. His second fight with Cantwell is covered in particular depth. Stann also honestly discusses being bothered by internet criticism of his MMA career, something that most athletes aren't willing to admit to.
The book is well-written, but at times almost too well-written. Co-writer John R. Bruning often uses a pedantic style of writing that doesn't feel authentic to how Stann (or almost anyone) would actually speak. It's a style of writing that would lend itself better to a third-hand account and is at times is distracting for the first-hand narrative.
Brian Stann has a remarkable story to tell and Heart for the Fight is a worthwhile read for those interested in the Iraq War or Stann's MMA career.