LAS VEGAS — Cody Stamann’s eyes said everything. He did remarkably well to compose himself and gather his thoughts given what has been going on in his life. He’d just defeated Brian Kelleher in an impressive performance at UFC 250, but he showed little joy or sense of satisfaction.
On May 27, his 18-year-old brother, Jacob, unexpectedly died in Michigan. Cody mulled pulling out of the bout, but he just felt his brother, an elite wrestler, would want him to compete.
Stamann now lives in Las Vegas and wasn’t able to hug his mother and father. He wasn’t able to grieve with his surviving siblings. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t do much of anything but wonder why this would happen.
His brother had begun to go down a wrong path. Jacob was a natural and things came so easily to him that he’d begun to take shortcuts, Stamann said. No one in the family knew the extent of the problem, though. Officials still haven’t released a cause of death.
Jacob had planned to fly to Las Vegas and spend time with Cody, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, he couldn’t do it.
“You just wonder, if he were here with me like he was supposed to be, could I have done something or would things have been different?” he said.
He sighed and stared at the floor. He was emotionally spent, his insides torn apart. He spent a sleepless night on Friday thinking about his brother, and was miserable for most of the day Saturday.
He was fighting Kelleher, a hot opponent who was fighting for the third time in 2020 and had finished each of his last two bouts. But his thoughts all day were not on the fight but on Jacob and his family.
“I just kept saying to myself, ‘I have to do this. I have to do this,’” he said after winning 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards. “I had to give my family something else to think about that was positive and good. I couldn’t be there for them. I couldn’t be there for my mom. I couldn’t be there for my dad. I couldn’t be there with my brother and my sister. I wasn’t there for anyone, so I felt this is what I had to do for them now.
“When I made it about something bigger than myself, that helped and made it easier for me to do.”