OTM Instructor of the Year: Ramon Lemos
This award goes to an instructor in the sports of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Jiu-Jitsu (Gi), or Submission Grappling (No-Gi) that have shown tremendous leadership, direction, and instruction, while developing their academy, students, and competition team. This is always one of the most difficult awards to decide with so many accomplished competitors and qualified instructors now teaching around the world. That being said, we are proud to announce that the 2011 "OTM Instructor of the Year" award goes to Ramon Lemos.
Lemos is a black belt under Nova União co-founder André Pederneiras and the head Jiu-Jitsu coach and founding member of the famous Atos Team. In October 2008, after the split in the Brasa Team, Lemos decided to form his own team, so he along with André Galvão and Gustavo Campos created Atos. Due to the strong religious beliefs shared by the founding members, they named the team Atos, which is a Biblical reference to the Book of Acts.
Coincidentally, according to the Bible's Proverbs 27:17, which happens to be referenced on the tattoo of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, it states "Ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui", which is Latin for "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." These words make perfect sense when looking at the incredible talent representing Atos this year.
Under the support and tutelage of Lemos, Gilbert "Durinho" Burns and the Mendes brothers Rafael and Guilherme took home gold medals at the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in June, while Ary Farias took home a silver medal placing right behind Guilherme. Then in September, Galvão won the prestious double at ADCC by winning both the -88 kg division and Absolute division at the biennial ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, but Atos' ADCC 2011 success didn't stop there. Rafael Mendes won the -66 kg division, while Claudio Calasans made it to the semi-finals of the -77 kg division and Bruno Frazatto competed in both the -66 kg and Absolute divisions.
Lemos rounded out his busy 2011 teaching schedule, which consisted of grooming multiple IBJJF World (Gi) and ADCC (No-Gi) champions by also coaching two UFC (MMA) champions as well. Those two champions happened to be two of the finest fighters in the world today, Anderson Silva and Junior dos Santos. Silva defended his middleweight title twice in 2011 by finishing both Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, while dos Santos dominated the two biggest fights of his career. The first win was a title shot eliminator bout against Shane Carwin in June, after he was a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 13, and then in November dos Santos needed only 64 seconds to capture the UFC heavyweight title from Cain Velasquez in the first ever UFC bout televised on FOX.
OTM proudly announces that Ramon Lemos is the winner of the 2011 "OTM Instructor of the Year" award and eagerly look forward to watching him and his students perform in the near future!
OTM Model of the Year: Brittney Palmer
This award goes to a woman involved in combat sports, who helps spread the awareness of Mixed Martial Arts, Jiu-Jitsu, and Submission Grappling through her sheer physical beauty. The list of qualified candidates that meet that description is just as deep as any other category with the likes of Kenda Perez, Arianny Celeste, Sheena Lee, Chandella Powell, and many other beautiful women working tirelessly in the industry, but after careful consideration we have decided unanimously that the 2011 "OTM Model of the Year" award goes to UFC Octagon girl, model, and artist Brittney Palmer.
Palmer first made a name herself in the sport, as the longtime ring girl of the Zuffa owned World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) organization, but her status in the sport skyrocketed in 2011 after Zuffa merged its WEC roster into the UFC at the end of 2010. Palmer would join other WEC stars such as José Aldo, Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, and Miguel Torres in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Palmer's presence in the UFC was quickly noticed. While many fans love to use the Internet to anonymously critique the looks or personalities of various ring girls in the sport, Palmer was always the exception to this rule and has been widely embraced with love and affection. Her classic beauty and humble down-to-earth attitude helped her win over adoring fans by the thousands. This adoration was clearly noticed last summer, after Palmer took a break from her UFC duties to concentrate on art school. While Zuffa was releasing Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem (Overeem was later resigned), two of the best heavyweight fighters of all time, it was the absence of Palmer that seemed to draw more attention and concern from many of the fans in late July.
In the meantime, Palmer kept in touch with her fans and people in the sport via her website www.BrittneyPalmer.com, Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrittneyPalmer, and Facebook: Brittney Palmer. The patience of her MMA related friends, fans, and admirers paid off on December 10th, as Palmer made her highly anticipated return to the UFC at UFC 140 - Jones vs. Machida and graced the circumference of the Octagon for the nearly 18,500 fans in Toronto and the millions of more fans watching from home.
Just a few days after she made her return at UFC 140, the bombshell of an announcement that many had been waiting for was finally made. It was announced that Palmer would be on the cover of the March 2012 issue of Playboy, just like her fellow UFC Octagon girls Rachelle Leah and Arianny Celeste have done in the past. This confirmed what many had been suspecting since last April, after Palmer starred alongside Jo Garcia in a Playboy commercial at the UFC Gym in Rosemead, California. The video was for the new Mortal Kombat video game and was widely watched after being uploaded to Playboy's Youtube Channel.
We here at OTM proudly announce that Brittney Palmer is the winner of the 2011 "OTM Model of the Year" award and wish her the best of luck with all of her future endeavors!
OTM Comeback of the Year: Dean Lister
This award goes to a combat athlete in the sports of Mixed Martial Arts, Jiu-Jitsu, or Submission Grappling that either came back from a long lay off or some form of adversity to regain previous success in one of the three respective sports. In 2011, we got to see some noteworthy career comebacks on various levels.
In the UFC, Ed Herman finished two opponents in the first round, once returning to action, after nearly two years of inactivity due to a serious knee injury. At ADCC in September, we saw Mario Sperry return to action to defeat Renzo Gracie via points (5-0) in a Superfight. Sperry won the inaugural ADCC event in 1998 in both his -99 kg weight division and the Absolute division. However, both of these comebacks were surpassed on the same weekend and in the same venue as Sperry's return by the man commonly referred to as "The Boogeyman", as we proudly announce the 2011 "OTM Comeback of the Year" award goes to Dean Lister.
Lister was also the first ever recipient of the "OTM Submission Grappler of the Year" award back in 2003, after he defeated Nate Marquardt, Saulo Ribeiro, Marcio "Pé de Pano" Cruz, and Alexandre "Cacareco" Ferreira to win the ADCC 2003 Absolute Division. That win gained Lister instant worldwide recognition as one of America's all-time best submission grapplers. Lister then returned to the next ADCC two years later to defeat the legendary Jean Jacques Machado in a Superfight at ADCC 2005.
This led to him being recruited by several top MMA fighters as a training partner here in the United States and in Europe, as well as earning him a spot as an assistant coach on The Ultimate Fighter 3 in 2006, where he was the grappling coach on Tito Ortiz's team. After filming the show, Lister signed with the UFC and fought there until the end of 2008 and only fought once more in MMA outside the organization a year later.
After returning to the Submission Grappling scene and going 1-1 at ADCC 2009, Lister again returned to his roots this past September at ADCC 2011, but this time many did not consider him the favorite with the 2007 "OTM Submission Grappler of the Year" Xande Ribeiro and the 2010 "OTM Submission Grappler of the Year" Joao Assis being considered the heavy favorites to win his -99 kg weight division. However, Lister turned back the clock and found his 2003 form by submitting 3 out of his 4 opponents en route to winning gold, exactly like he did eight years ago.
Therefore, we proudly announce that Dean Lister is the winner of the 2011 "OTM Comeback of the Year" award and we hope to see him continue his submission grappling success!
OTM Organization of the Year: Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
This award goes to the organization in Mixed Martial Arts, Jiu-Jitsu, or Submission Grappling that has truly done the most to promote the sport in the brightest light possible, while also entertaining the fans and supporting the fighters. In the past twelve months we have seen many emerging organizations pop up, while other established shows continued to gain steam.
In Jiu-Jitsu, IBJJF continued to expand their competition calendar with regional championships in cities such as Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, London, Melbourne, New York City, and Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile, in Submission Grappling, Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan's biennial ADCC tournament once again consisted of the world's best competitors either by direct invite or through world qualifiers. ADCC, like IBJJF, also expanded their brand by doing numerous regional trials. However, this year's award is going to the worldwide leader for Mixed Martial Arts, as we proudly announce the 2011 "OTM Organization of the Year" award goes to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
The UFC might seem like the 800-pound gorilla in the room full of combat sport organizations that you might want to ignore in favor of giving credit to a smaller promotion that has grown and done a lot of good in the last year. While a few like the aforementioned IBJJF and ADCC are worth considering, we still had to give the UFC the nod when you take in to account everything they accomplished in their tenth year under Zuffa ownership.
Starting in 2011, Zuffa moved all of its WEC stars into the UFC, after folding its WEC organization at the end of 2010. Following the UFC-WEC merger, WEC feathweight champion José Aldo and WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz became the UFC featherweight champion and UFC bantamweight champion respectively. Along with them, the entire featherweight and bantamweight divisions became viable and sustainable career options for the world's most talented 145-pound and 135-pound fighters. Now fighters such as Aldo and Cruz, along with Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, Chad Mendes, Renan Barão, and many more have the ability to make top-tier salaries on the biggest stage in the world.
In March, that stage got a little more competitive in the rest of the divisions as well, after the Zuffa purchased Strikeforce. This was the only other major MMA organization left in the United States. The UFC had previously bought the WFA and WEC in 2006, PRIDE in 2007, and several IFL and Afflicton contracts in 2008 and 2009. However, with the purchase of Strikeforce in 2011, Zuffa now had the ability to form title fights that fans of boxing can only dream about. While a Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather superfight in boxing may never come to fruition, the UFC is now set to have a Nick Diaz (the last Strikeforce welterweight champion) vs. Carlos Condit (the last WEC welterweight champion) interim welterweight title fight in February with the winner set to challenge Georges St-Pierre (the current UFC welterweight champion) later this year. Allowing champions of different organizations to challenge each other to unify world titles is what Zuffa's acquisitions of WEC and Strikeforce has allowed fight fans to enjoy.
To cap off its year full of growth, the UFC signed a 7-year broadcasting deal with the major commercial broadcasting television network FOX, which will provide MMA fans with the ability to watch live UFC events, The Ultimate Fighter reality series, and other UFC content for free on FOX, FX, and Fuel TV. The UFC will still have their monthly PPV events, but one would be hard pressed to find a better way to supplement those mega cards than with some free live UFC fights televised on cable TV that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own bed or living room.
Accordingly, we are proud announce that the UFC is the winner of the 2011 "OTM Organization of the Year" award and we can't wait to see what they do in the coming year, which will mark the start of the second decade of Zuffa ownership!
Check out the rest of the winners from the OTM Awards 2011 here: www.onthemat.com/blogs-posts/otm-awards-2011-recap.