Midseason MMA Awards: The GDP Award

Some people say money can't buy happiness. Those people are broke losers who live with their moms and take the bus to work at Cinnabon. Forget those people. For the rest of us – the ones who don't want to take all our meals in shopping mall food courts – it's important to have a little cash in our pockets.

There are two ways you can accomplish that as a pro fighter: 1) Be a main-eventin', cut-of-the-pay-per-view-gettin', mainstream-sponsor-havin', first-class-flyin', son of a gun, or 2) Fight every single chance you get.

The first option is more glamorous, but the simple fact is that it's not realistic for 99% of MMA fighters. They can't all be the best in the world. Some of them sweat and bleed for every penny. They have to make as much as they can, while they can. They have to keep getting in the cage and keep getting paid.

So far in 2010, one man stands head and shoulder above the rest when it comes to putting on the gloves and stacking that paper, and that man is Chris Leben.

At UFC 116 on July 3, Leben won his third fight in 2010. The $75,000 Fight of the Night bonus helped bring his (disclosed) total take for the year so far to $316,000, and all without ever fighting in a main event. Keep in mind, that's just the money he made from fighting, winning, and collecting bonuses. It doesn't include cash from sponsors or the mysterious 'locker room bonuses' the UFC is famous for.

Not to get Leben in trouble with the IRS or anything, but it's a good bet that he pocketed even more once all his revenue streams are added up. "King" Mo Lawal might be the official captain of Team GDP (Get Dat Paper), but Leben is making a strong case for a starting spot of his own.

But so what, right? What's the big deal about a pro athlete adding a couple extra grand to the wad of dough in his sock drawer?

Normally, nothing. But in Leben's case we're looking at a guy with ambition, drive, and a reckless disregard for his own health. In other words, everything that's good about pro sports, but without all the whining by rich people.

This is someone who beat up Aaron Simpson in Las Vegas one Saturday night, flew back to Hawaii to rest and recover, then ended up flying back to Las Vegas two weekends later to do it all again, this time against an even tougher opponent in Yoshihiro Akiyama.

That's not some golfer finishing 37th and riding off in a Lincoln Towncar to cash his oversized novelty check. That's a guy who is putting his body on the line in order to bulk up his bank account. He knows he can't do this forever, but he also knows that he doesn't want to be living on ramen and checking soda machines for spare change when he's fifty.

Leben is a fighter who realizes that hurting is his business, and right now he's in a bull market. He is the CEO of face-smashing, the Count of Monte Fisto.

Some people marry rich. Others buy lottery tickets. Leben beats up pro fighters.

If you can't respect his violent pursuit of wealth, that's cool. I'm sure you have other, more fulfilling goals to focus on, but try not to get too wrapped up in them. Otherwise you'll miss your bus.

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