Like every fighter before a bout, Brian Stann has a reason to be nervous.
Tonight in Las Vegas he'll look across the cage at another mixed martial artist who is trying to take away his title as well as his win bonus that goes to support his wife and daughter.
His challenger is Steve Cantwell, a 6-2 205-pound fighter that choked his last opponent into submission.
Still, for the undefeated World Extreme Cagefighting light-heavyweight champion, this is just another walk in the cage compared to the fights he used to have.
Stann, a Marine officer, served two tours in Iraq. During his first tour in 2005, his platoon was ambushed in Karabilah, a town in the western part of the country. For seven days, Stann and his platoon fought off multiple attacks from all directions. He was in charge of 42 troops, plus attachments, and had to make harder decisions than whether to throw a left hook or a right cross.
"I identify it to being a parent," the 27-year-old said of that experience. "Those 40, 50, 60 guys they're all my sons. If you have to put yourself in harm's way to save one of your guys . . . you're going to do that."
Every one of Stann's troops survived the weeklong barrage.
For his gallantry in action, he was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest military honor.
"Obviously he has no fear in the cage," WEC Vice President of Operations and Production Peter Dropick said. "He wants to continue to grow as a fighter and he wants to help grow the WEC."
Before he was crushing opponents in the cage, he was doing it on the football field. The Scranton, Pa., product played linebacker at the Naval
Academy and earned a degree in economics before being commissioned as a Marine officer in 2003.
Stann, who has a 6-0 MMA record, previously knocked out Cantwell (4-1) in March 2007. Tonight's card can be seen at 9 on the Versus network.
The WEC features lighter weight classes (135, 145) than its big brother, the UFC. It also has matches at lightweight (155), welterweight (170), middleweight (185) and light-heavyweight (205) and is renown for having fast-paced, exciting fights. The June 1 card, which featured featherweight champion Urijah Faber outpointing former UFC champ Jens Pulver and Miguel Torres and Yoshiro Maeda relentlessly trying to end each other's night, was seen by nearly four million viewers, according to the WEC.
Stann is defending his title for the first time, but he doesn't seem too nervous.
"You look at the big picture," Stann said. "What's the worst that can happen to me Sunday night? In comparison to what I've already been through."