Brittney Palmer is a ring girl. For the uninitiated, this means that she’s the one carrying the numbered card across the octagon between rounds at Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts. The 24-year-old Las Vegas near-native (her family moved here when she was 2) is known around the mixed martial arts world for her killer physique and fresh face, but she recently introduced her ever-growing number of fans to her other body of work—the art she produces in her garage studio.
Her work includes spray-painted stencils and acrylic as well as oil portraits. Her subjects tend toward pop-culture icons—especially the rock idols of the 1960s. “My mom says I died at Woodstock in 1969 and was reincarnated in San Diego in 1987,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed that era of music.”
For obvious reasons (see photograph), Palmer has built an online following, but now she’s putting her paintings up at BrittneyPalmer.com and turning her fans into art aficionados. In fact, two weeks ago Palmer moved to Santa Monica, Calif., to start art school.
“I feel like if I want to be the best at something, that if I start devoting all my time and energy into painting, I want to do it the right way,” says Palmer, who will be back in town July 2 for UFC 132 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. “I know how to paint, but I’ve never technically been taught. I want somebody to sit down with me and rip my paintings and tell me they look like shit. Tell me what I can do differently. I’m serious about painting; it’s my passion, and I want to take this as far as I can.”
Painting is Palmer’s second foray into the arts. She studied dance from age 8, and before she was 20, she had landed her dream job as a Las Vegas showgirl with a role in X Burlesque at the Flamingo. “I was super stoked,” she says. “It was a cool feeling to know this is what I wanted for so long, and now I’m actually doing it.”
Palmer danced with X Burlesque for three years, in addition to modeling and working as a bottle-service host at Pure Nightclub. Then, in 2008, came her breakthrough MMA audition.
But life wasn’t always so blissful.
Palmer—who graduated from Cheyenne High School and took a year of dance classes at the College of Southern Nevada—struggled as a teenager. She says she had dark black hair, dressed in punk gear and was rebellious to the point it threatened her future. When she was a junior in high school, her father, Glenn, died, and she began to rethink her own life.
“That was really a big eye-opener on what’s important and what my priorities were,” she says. “Vegas can be a hard place to grow up; it’s easy to get sucked into making a lot of bad decisions. My dad’s death woke me up and put me on the straight-and-narrow path after high school.”
Palmer has followed that path all the way to art school, but her fans can rest assured that her first priority is still letting them know exactly what round it is.
“I want to do UFC until Dana [White, the UFC president] says, ‘Brittney, you are too old to be doing this,’” Palmer says.
“Why would I ever want to stop?”