When it comes to mixing annual MMA achievements with mainstream pop culture, nobody does it better than Fighters Only.
For the past six years, the UK-based MMA publication has kicked down doors and shaken up the industry with its year-end extravaganza, known as the World MMA Awards.
The event, which highlights the achievements of the sport’s top performers, draws a massive audience of celebrities from both inside and outside of the MMA universe.
It’s like the ESPYS, the Grammy’s and the Teen Choice Awards, all tied together in one tremendously exciting presentation.
Earlier this month, Fighters Only hosted its sixth annual event and completely tore the roof off of the Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada.
From the red carpet gala at the start of the night to the overall presentation of the awards and videos, the show was a huge success.
Stars that you ordinarily wouldn’t associate with MMA—such as Gene Simmons and Terrell Owens, helped make it special. However, they weren’t the only ones that stole the show.
UFC reporter Megan Olivi has a way of lighting up any room by just simply walking in with a microphone and smiling. This woman is a trailblazer. She’s passionate about what she does and it shows through her video interviews and segments. Some people say they are living the dream, Olivi actually is.
Emily Miller is one of MMA’s most influential women. As a former ring-card girl for the now defunct IFL and current ring girl for the World Series of Fighting, Miller has been involved in the industry for years. She eats, sleeps and breathes MMA and has a very loyal following because of it.
Australian bombshell Allira Cohrs has taken the fight world by storm with her exquisite curves and vast knowledge on the sport. A former host for Heavy MMA’s Fight Day, Cohrs has been hustling and bustling like no other. She is on the fast track to becoming a major superstar and has no plans of slowing down yet.
These three attractive but powerful women were all part of the show in one way, shape or form. Each of them had a hand in the flow of the event and helped make it, without question, a night to remember.
Miller, who escorted all of the night’s winners onto the stage and presented them with their awards, was beyond thrilled with the way the night went.
“I was talking to a lot of my girlfriends that attended the event and from talking to them and also feeling the vibe backstage, I honestly feel like this was our best one yet,” Miller told Bleacher Report.
“With all the celebrities that attended: big names like Gene Simmons, Mario Lopez and Terrell Owens, it was huge. All in all, our video presentation was on point. I just think it was our best year yet.”
Miller is no stranger to the spotlight, but the massive buzz that the event produces can definitely be a little nerve-racking at first. She felt it firsthand.
“I actually was a little bit nervous. I went through a run through the night before but it was a little daunting at first,” Miller said.
“I had six inch heels on and being up there on stage, not knowing who’s in the crowd did make me a bit nervous but once I walked out there all of the butterflies were gone.”
While the primary focus of the event is to honor and recognize the nominees and award winners, The World MMA Awards has also become a hotbed for pumping out some of the most hilarious comedy bits involving fighters and coaches.
This year, comedian Adam Hunter wrote and produced memorable skits involving Wanderlei Silva, Mark Munoz and others. His “What does the Wand say?” video has already gone viral on YouTube with over 91,000 hits.
For someone who works as hard as Olivi, sometimes it can be tough to sit back and enjoy the show. This time, she got to be a part of the on-stage presentation as well as watching from the audience. She had a great time but what stood out to her the most was seeing the fighters kick back and have fun.
In her eyes, that is what truly made the event a success across the board.
“This was my first time ever sitting in the audience so that was definitely a different experience,” Olivi told Bleacher Report.
“I got to see all the skits by MMA Roasted’s Adam Hunter and I thought they were incredibly well-written and hilarious. The big thing to me was that the fighters really enjoyed themselves. We got to see them in different elements and I just really loved being a part of it.”
Alongside Kenny Florian, Olivi announced UFC President Dana White as the Leading Man of the Year. A category that White has dominated by a landslide, every single year.
As part of the UFC family, Olivi was very grateful for the opportunity to honor her boss.
“Dana White is amazing. There’s nobody else more deserving than him. He works really hard and it’s such an honor to be able to work for him and be part of the UFC team,” Olivi said.
“It was an honor to present the award to my boss because I really appreciate everything he does for me personally so it was cool to share that with the whole group and say ‘and the winner is Dana White’. I thought it was very well deserved.”
Coming in from Australia, this was Cohrs’ first time attending the MMA Awards. The voluptuous brunette was on stage with UFC hall of famer, Royce Gracie to present UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey with her award for Female Fighter of the Year.
When she learned she would be presenting with Gracie, Cohrs looked behind her for Ashton Kutcher because she thought she was being punk'd.
“When they sent me my script and told me I was going to be working with Royce, I thought surely that had to be a mistake. I couldn’t believe that I was actually working with Royce Gracie,” Cohrs told Bleacher Report.
“It was very surreal to be honest. It just happened so quickly and before I knew it, the night was over and I didn’t want it to end.”
All three women felt that the voters did an excellent job in determining this year’s winners. They particularly thought that Brittney Palmer winning Ring Girl of the Year for the second consecutive year was well deserved.
|Charles "Mask" Lewis Fighter of the Year||Chris Weidman|
|Female Fighter of the Year||Ronda Rousey|
|Breakthrough Fighter of the Year||Travis Browne|
|International Fighter of the Year||Alexander Gustafson|
|Fight of the Year||Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafson (UFC 165)|
|Knockout of the Year||Vitor Belfort (vs. Luke Rockhold, UFC on FX 8)|
|Submission of the Year||Urijah Faber (vs. Ivan Menjivar, UFC 157)|
|Comeback of the Year||Travis Browne (vs. Alistair Overeem, UFC Fight Night 26)|
|Shawn Tompkins Coach of the Year||Duane Ludwig|
|Gym of the Year||Team Alpha Male|
|Trainer of the Year||Mike Dolce|
|Referee of the Year||Herb Dean|
|Ringcard Girl of the Year||Brittney Palmer|
|Leading Man||Dana White|
|Personality of the Year||Chael Sonnen|
|Best Lifestyle Clothing||Bad Boy|
|Best Technical Clothing||Venum|
|Best Technical Equipment||Bad Boy|
|Media Source of the Year||MMAFighting.com|
|Journalist of the Year||Ariel Helwani|
|Lifetime Achievement Award||Royce Gracie|
Palmer has essentially taken over the throne from fellow UFC Octagon girl Arianny Celeste. Celeste dominated the category for the first four years without much competition but Palmer has rapidly taken over as the fan's choice.
“I’ve noticed that, [Brittney surpassing Arianny] from the last couple of years,” Miller said.
“Not to discredit Arianny in any way because I absolutely love her but Brittney has come a long way. She’s rocking it.”
It’s not a competition between the two by any means but it is interesting to see a changing of the guard, so to speak, between the two Octagon girls.
“Brittney and Arianny are really good friends and I think it’s just what the fans are feeling right now at this particular time,” Olivi said.
“They are both incredibly beautiful and talented girls so it’s just fun to see what the fans are thinking that year. I don’t think it’s a competition or anything between them because they are very close and they are both amazing.”
Celeste is still one of the most beloved women in the UFC, but sometimes you’ve got to change things up to keep it interesting.
“Change is good. Not that I think people are tired of seeing Arianny but they want to see Brittney hold the crown for a little bit,” Cohrs said.
“They want to keep it fresh. Nobody wants to see the same person win every year, you have to keep things spontaneous and exciting.”
Despite the overwhelming popularity of the event, there are some fans who feel that they should rename the show to the World UFC Awards instead. After all, over 90 percent of the winners each year are part of the ZUFFA-owned organization.
However, Olivi and Miller both disagree.
Yes, the UFC won most of the awards but if you look at the nominees you will see a wide variety of different brands from all over the world.
“I think this one was different because, normally it’s very UFC-heavy but I think there was a lot of representation from different organizations this year,” Olivi said.
“Not just with all the nominees but there were also a ton of fighters from other organizations on stage this year as well.”
As a WSOF ring girl, Miller pointed out her team and was proud to see them in the house.
“World Series of Fighting was represented very well. We had Josh Burkman up there presenting an award. We had three of our ring girls there in attendance,” Miller said.
“It was also great to have our president Ray Sefo, one of our fighters Nick Newell and our ring girl Kat Kelley nominated for awards as well. I was very happy to see my WSOF family rocking it. Like I said, this was our best one yet and I am already looking forward to next year's show."
For more information on the World MMA Awards. Go to FightersOnlyMag.com
Mitch Ciccarelli is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and co-host of Alchemist Radio. He is also a United States Airman. Follow him on Twitter @MitchCiccarelli.