(Arianny Celeste, accepting her third-consecutive award for Journalist of the Year. / Photo via Getty)
By Mike Fagan
I sort of remember where I was when Fighters Only announced the first World MMA Awards. What a moment. I sat there at my desk in my two-bedroom apartment in beautiful Henderson, Nevada, reading the announcement and nominee list. I may have thought something like “This won’t last more than a year” or maybe I just finished reading and moved on with my life. December 2008 was a wild time, man.
Yet, here we are during the annual War on Christmas in 2014 and the World MMA Awards are going strong with their seventh annual edition. They proved the maybe-fictional version of my 2008 self wrong.
Fighters Only released this year’s nominee list on Monday, and I have some thoughts. Allow me to list them for you…
1. Someone ran the nominee photos through the “2003” filter. The World MMA Awards built itself a flashy website complete with a sweet animated countdown clock and high-res background video of last year’s awards and 2014 UFC highlights which I’m sure cost a lot of money to license (wink wink). Yet when you click through to vote, you find headshots of nominees that look like they were shot on a flip phone a decade ago.
2. International Fighter of the Year is still a thing. For the first two years, International Fighter of the Year was known as European Fighter of the Year, which, okay, Fighters Only is a UK publication or whatever. They renamed it for 2010, and fighters “outside the Americas” are eligible. Now I’m not sure of the point. Every winner of the award (including the original Euro winners) had a presence in the United States the year they won. Plus, MMA is a global sport, and international fighters aren’t disqualified or handicapped from winning Fighter of the Year proper. The first three winners were non-Americans Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre (who technically isn’t eligible for International Fighter of the Year anyway), and Jose Aldo. You could always present a non-UFC Fighter of the Year and prevent things like…
3. Emanuel Newton nominated for Fighter of the Year. Newton wasn’t nominated last year when he upset “King” Mo Lawal (and Bjorn Rebney) twice. So, he turns around in 2014 and rattles off wins against luminous names like Attila Vegh, Joey Beltran, and Linton Vassell and finds himself nominated. This is worse than Bloody Elbow readers voting Matt Brown as their fighter of the year in 2012.
4. Speaking of Bloody Elbow, Brent Brookhouse wasn’t nominated for journalist of the year. Bloody Elbow was given a token nomination for Media Source of the Year, so at least someone’s paying attention. Brookhouse gets left off despite a now-long history of investigative work AND breaking the biggest story of the year. If only he held a microphone, wore children’s shoes, and asked fighters about their beards…
5. Two nominees for Media Source of the Year have documented ties to the UFC. MMA Junkie belongs to USA Today, which has some sort of partnership deal with the UFC. Fightland is, in Tim Marchman’s words, a “joint UFC/Vice venture.” That same report also noted instances of Fightland editing pieces in order to appear more favorable to the promotion.
6. Mike Dolce found himself nominated for Trainer of the Year. Dolce’s claim to fame in 2014 is an ongoing feud with BJ Penn over Dolce’s work for Penn leading up to what turned out to be a disaster of a trilogy fight against Frankie Edgar. Penn isn’t the first fighter to complain about Dolce’s contributions, and both Phil Baroni and Tito Ortiz have chimed in with their thoughts on the Dolce Diet guru.
7. Someone or someones thought Brendan Schaub was worthy of a Personality of the Year nomination. Schaub co-hosts the Fighter and The Kid podcast with Bryan Callen and regularly appears on Joe Rogan’s podcast where Rogan occasionally Kano’s him in front of thousands of viewers. Schaub seems like a nice-enough and articulate-enough guy, but I couldn’t make it more than a minute into an episode of the Fighter and The Kid without feeling embarrassed for everyone involved.
8. Leading Man of the Year, a category sexist enough for the MMA community. Sorry, Shannon Knapp, no matter how many millions of streams Invicta tallies, you’ll never find yourself nominated for the de facto “promoter of the year” category. But hey, there’s a category for you if you wanna throw on a bikini and walk around with numbered signs.
9. Sponsored by Bodybuilding.com and RDX Sports. Nothing says classy gala affair like a store/forum pushing workout pills and unrealistic body expectations and a UK martial arts equipment provider with fewer Twitter followers than a certain tuber-themed MMA site.
10. Holy shit, they let the fans vote on this stuff. The World MMA Awards are determined by the Eddie Justbleeds of the world. Surely, said Justbleeds recognize the relative merits of Ray Longo’s and Duane Ludwig’s coaching techniques. Surely, they recognize such trainers as Doug Balzarini, Brian Blue, Jake Bonacci, and Joel Jamieson. Surely, Garry Cook and Victor Cui are household names. Surely, they understand the difference between “lifestyle” and “technical” clothing brands, and are familiar enough with the “technical equipment” to provide a fair and balanced ballot.
The World MMA Awards: The awards show that MMA deserves, but not the one it needs right now. Or ever.