Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 | 3:37 p.m.
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2011 MMA Awards at Palms
2011 MMA Awards at Palms
It was a night in which the bravado and brawn of MMA male stars were overpowered by the knockout glitz and glamour of wives, girlfriends, female fighters, ring girls and sportswear models. The beauties sparkled and shined on the red carpet at the 4th Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards at Palms last night.
Our thanks to photographers Denise Truscello and Scott Harrison and videographer Richard Corey for their coverage. For local heroes, it was another big win: For the third consecutive year, Arianny Celeste and Dana White won in their respective categories of Ring Girl of the Year and Leading Man of the Year. (I don’t know if Dana made it back in time for awards, as he was stranded in L.A. due to high winds here that delayed inbound aircraft).
Showbiz also added its pizazz with three of the “Dancing With the Stars” cast on hand for the celebrations: Cheryl Burke, who placed second this most recent season with Rob Kardashian; our hometown’s Derek Hough, who was third with Ricki Lake; and Mark Ballas, who was partnered with reality TV beauty Kristin Cavallari.
Pro champion Cheryl, who presented Fighter of the Year, told me: “I’ve never been to an MMA bout, but I find it really interesting -- fighting in a cage is about true athletes. I’ve been fascinated with it ever since Chuck Liddell competed on our show. I’m not a fighter myself -- I’m a lover. But dancing is a sport itself, and dancers are also athletes -- so there’s a lot of synergy.”
Pro champion Derek, who presented Submission of the Year, told me he’s signed on for the next season of “DTWS” that starts in March. He said that he was injured for the first time this season with a dislocated shoulder. “I still feel that,” he admitted. “I now know how the fighters feel. I admire their dedication and discipline -- it’s the same as a dancer. There are a lot of similar techniques between the two sports. There’s a lot of dancing in MMA. … I love going to the bouts. I have hopped over to Vegas to watch many of them because my mom has lived here now for 13 years.”
Derek also cleared up my misunderstanding of his years spent here training at Las Vegas Academy. “No, that was Julianne [Hough, his sister]. She was here. I was 10 years in southeast London, but obviously came here many times for family events.” He’s excited about his debut 3D movie “Cobu” that he’s completed filming and will be released in the spring. Like Julianne in “Footloose,” this features him dancing.
UFC fighter Chael Sonnen hosted the taped awards for later telecast this month on Fox Sports. You can hear my interview with him in the YouTube video that Richard posted. Chael told me: “This is the only life I know -- the only sport I’m interested in. I have never seen a basketball game or a football match. Nobody knows why MMA is so successful and ever growing with fans. I believe, though, it’s because we are the only true pure sport. It’s real -- there are no fixes.” We posted my colleague Alison Duck’s interview with the lovable and very outspoken hunk yesterday.
The female fighters who dazzled included gorgeous Amber Nicole, a former ring girl who looked more at home in a model catwalk fashion show than in the Octagon pummeling opponents. Hometown beauty and Playboy’s Miss July Jessa Hinton made an eye-popping entrance in a low-cut gown for her Affliction line. One-time Las Vegas porn princess Jenna Jameson was on the arm of hubby Tito Ortiz, both looking happier than ever together, and Ring Girl rivals Arianny, Brittney Palmer and Chandella Powell looked as if they were at a Hollywood premiere.
This year’s winners: International Fighter of the Year, Alistair Overeem; Fighter of the Year, Jon Jones; Fight of the Year, Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard (UFC 125); Knockout of the Year, Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort (UFC 126); Leading Man of the Year, UFC President Dana White; Breakthrough Fighter of the Year, Donald Cerrone; Submission of the Year, Chan Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia (UFC Fight Night 124); Female Fighter of the Year, Meisha Tate; Ring Girl of the Year, Arianny Celeste; Entrance of the Year, Jason “Mayhem” Miller; Personality of the Year, Joe Rogan; Promotion of the Year, UFC; Coach of the Year, Greg Jackson; and Comeback of the Year, Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Berry, (UFC Live 5).
Additionally, Tapout won for Best Lifestyle Clothing. I’d never have known those two entrepreneurs would sell their clothing company for more than $900 million. Everybody had a reason to celebrate!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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