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UFC's Arianny Celeste is in a world of her own

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There's a ranking for the most powerful women in sports, but nothing that we've seen yet for the "coolest chick in sports."

If there was, a leading contender would be the Southland woman striding along the Ultimate Fighting Championship octagon Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim for UFC 121, blowing a kiss to the audience.

"I'm fine with that," Arianny Celeste said of accepting the title.

The 24-year-old ring-card girl has toured the octagon for four years now, developing from a shy college student who had never watched the fights to this month’s Playboy cover girl.

Celeste has more than 70,000 followers on Twitter, hangs with the rock stars and celebrities who attend fights and has become such a draw she hosts her own after-fight parties and the UFC's new Web series, "Ultimate Insider."

"I love sports; I love watching sports in person," Celeste said. "I've become a big hockey fan. I went to a Kings game. It was pretty intense. They started fighting."

Celeste knows fighting. She didn't when her modeling agent informed her that the UFC was conducting auditions for a ring girl. She was studying fitness and nutrition at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at the time. She said about 40 people showed up for the tryout.

"I tried on the outfit, met the executives and they asked me if I watched the UFC," Celeste said. "I had to tell them the truth, I didn't watch it. But they were OK with it for whatever reason.

"When I first started, I'm so super-shy, I wanted to get it over with right away. I just took the card and started walking around the ring. I was young, barely 21, just getting into my womanly body. It was awkward."

As the UFC surged in popularity, Celeste's commitment and interest grew. Pretty soon, she was traveling internationally with the organization, and opted to leave college as fight fans grew attached to her.

"It blows me away how much the company and I have grown," she said. "I go to appearances and the weigh-ins. There's lines and lines of people who travel hours and hours to see us. It's crazy. I would never do that."

"So now I wave to the guys when I'm up there [on the apron], say hi, I’m more confident. I figure it means a lot to them if I say hi to them while I'm up there."

Life away from the octagon is "almost a double life," Celeste said. "I lay low in sweats, no makeup, go to movies. I'm quite introverted. This other persona is just for work."

She's keeping her followers updated on her projects, including dance rehearsals for a music video she'll make for her new single. She's recorded what she describes as "the official UFC fight anthem," titled, "Fight to Love Me."

"I wanted to find something that would hit MMA fans but is also about love," she said.

Celeste anticipates more opportunities in the future.

"I want to take every opportunity that comes to me," she said. "I'm building a brand, and it's all about sexy, fitness and health."

-- Lance Pugmire

Photo: Arianny Celeste. Credit: UFC.

 
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