Former UFC champion found dead

Evan Tanner poses at the Ultimate Fighter 7 finale weigh-in on Fri., June 20, 2008. The 37-year-old...

Evan Tanner poses at the Ultimate Fighter 7 finale weigh-in on Fri., June 20, 2008. The 37-year-old MMA star was found dead in the Palo Verde mountain area by an Imperial County Sheriff's Department Deputy on Monday. (UFC photo)

SLAM! Sports staff

, Last Updated: 3:47 PM ET

Former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner has died.

Imperial County Sheriff's Lt. George Moreno says the 37-year-old mixed martial artist was found Monday about two miles from his campsite in a remote area of the Palo Verdes Mountains, where temperatures had reached 110 degrees. Moreno says a preliminary coroner's report suggests Tanner died of heat exposure.

Tanner left for the desert last week to go camping and motorcycle riding.

His agent, John Hayner, says Tanner called a friend on Wednesday to say the dirt bike had run out of gas. He was about 100 miles from the nearest town.

Tanner had posted an entry on his Spike TV web blog prior to his excursion discussing how equipment failure could be fatal.

"I've been gathering my gear for this adventure for over a month, not a long time by most standards, but far too long for my impatient nature," Tanner wrote. "Being a minimalist by nature, wanting to carry only the essentials, and being extremely particular, it has been a little difficult to find just the right equipment. I plan on going so deep into the desert, that any failure of my equipment could cost me my life."

After the post created concern among MMA fans, he wrote another blog downplaying the danger of the trip.

"It seems some MMA websites have reported on the story, posting up that I might die out in the desert, or that it might be my greatest opponent yet, etc. Come on guys. It's really common down in southern California to go out to the off-road recreation areas in the desert about an hour away from LA and San Diego. So my plan is to go out to the desert, do some camping, ride the motorcycle, and shoot some guns. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. A lot of people do it. This isn't a version of "Into the Wild". 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."

Tanner rose to the top of the UFC middleweight division in 2005 with a first-round stoppage over David Terrell. He then lost the title to Rich Franklin in his next fight. After two more matches in the UFC, he left the MMA scene.

He later returned to the sport in 2008, suffering a TKO loss to Yushin Okami and a split-decision loss to Kendall Grove in June.

-- with files from AP


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