Leila Navidi / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009 | midnight
The 2009 World Mixed Martial Arts Awards looked to provide the fighting community with its own version of Hollywood's Oscars Wednesday at The Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel.
The event was hosted by Fighters Only magazine and attracted some of the biggest names in the sport.
Of the 19 awards handed out in categories ranging from Fighter of the Year to the Best Glove Manufacturer, the highlight of the event came when the late Charles "Mask" Lewis was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lewis, who co-founded the clothing brand Tapout in 1997, died March 11 in a high-speed car crash in California.
"Charles is watching. I felt him in this room," said Dan Caldwell, co-founder of Tapout. "We were all here last New Year's and those are the kind of memories I like to remember. I looked up to him a lot and he'll always be remembered.
"Thank you for keeping his memory alive."
Lewis will continue to be honored at all Fighters Only awards shows, as the organization announced that it had permanently named all future Fighter of the Year awards, the Charles Mask Lewis Fighter of the Year award.
In addition to its co-founder being recognized, Tapout won awards for Best MMA Brand, Best Clothing Manufacturer and Best Shorts Manufacturer.
There were few surprises in winners, as UFC President Dana White took his second consecutive Leading Man of the Year award. Georges St. Pierre took home Fighter of the Year and UFC heavyweight Brock Lesnar nabbed Breakout Fighter of the Year.
All awards but the Lifetime Achievement Award were based on fan voting.
"This is my second consecutive year winning this award," White said. "I'm not always the most liked guy in the world, so to have an award that's voted on by the fans means a lot."
There were a few hiccups on the production side of Wednesday night's event.
In addition to names being mispronounced and award presenters struggling to see the teleprompter, Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson had to wait backstage while the producers accidentally ran the wrong introductions multiple times.
There was the case of Evans's win over Chuck Liddell at UFC 88 being nominated for Best Knockout of the Year — even though the event was held on Sept. 6, 2008.
There was also a disappointing lack of nominations for organizations other than the UFC, as several categories featured only UFC fights and fighters in the running.
For the most part, however, the event served its purpose — to recognize some of the best moments of the year and bring together some of the biggest names in the sport.
The event featured its share of celebrity guests as well, including Las Vegas performer Holly Madison, actors Quinton Aaron and Wilmer Valderrama, baseball player Shane Victorino, and poker ace Phil Helmuth.
Toby Imada received the Submission of the Year award for his finish over Jorge Masvidal at Bellator 5.
UFC lightweight Diego Sanchez accepted the Fight of the Year award for his bloody battle with Clay Guida at "The Ultimate Fighter" season 9 finale held at The Palms in June.
Dan Henderson won Knockout of the Year for his brutal overhand right to Michael Bisping at UFC 100.
Henderson, who now fights for the Strikeforce organization after a falling out with the UFC, couldn't help himself from mentioning his former boss during his acceptance speech.
"I want to thank Dana and Lorenzo (Fertitta) for giving me the opportunity to put on a show," Henderson said. "And, Dana, I hope I'll still see that knockout in UFC videos."
Fighter of the Year — Georges St. Pierre
Fight of the Year — Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida (TUF 9 finale)
KO of the Year — Dan Henderson's KO of Michael Bisping (UFC 100)
Submission of the Year — Toby Imada's inverted triangle at Bellator 5
Best Promotion — UFC
Leading Man of the Year — Dana White
European Fighter of the Year — Gegard Mousasi
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year — Brock Lesnar
Female Fighter of the Year — Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos
Coach of the Year — Greg Jackson (Jackson's Submission Fighting)
Ring Girl of the Year — Arriany Celeste
Gym of the Year — Jackson's Submission Fighting
Best MMA Brand — Tapout
Best Overall MMA Clothing Manufacturer — Tapout
Best MMA Shorts Manufacturer — Tapout
Best MMA Glove Manufacturer — UFC
Best MMA Media Source — MMA Junkie
Best MMA Journalist — John Morgan (MMA Junkie)
Special Lifetime Achievement Award — Charles "Mask" Lewis
The show was aired on delay on Versus.com and will also air on the Versus cable network Jan. 6, 7 and 9.