That's why Chris Leben got the mid-year GDP Award last July, after fighting three times in the first half of 2010. It's also why Alistair Overeem got the award at year's end after K-1ing his tail off, while also mixing in a couple MMA fights here and there just to make sure he had some change in his pocket.
But this time around our mid-year GDP Award recipient is of a different breed. He didn't fight a bunch of times; he fought once. He didn't keep doing it over and over until the money piled up like pizza boxes in a frat house; he did it only as much as he had to, and he made sure that every second of his time was rewarded handsomely.
That man, my friends, is none other than Tito Ortiz.
Yeah, I know. I don't like it any more than you do.
He's brash. He's abrasive. He never met a sentence he couldn't screw up. In the UFC 132 pre-fight interviews, I personally heard him mangle even easy cliches, saying things like "I'm a guy who wears his heart on his shoulder," and "I need to put food in my kids' mouths and a house over their heads."
He even pointed out that he didn't get any gradual build-ups in his career, noting "My first UFC fight was in the UFC."
And this is the man we're giving the GDP Award to, you ask? Absolutely.
Ortiz fought once in the first half of 2011, beating Ryan Bader via submission at UFC 132. The fight took just 116 seconds, and for it Ortiz was paid the princely sum of $450,000. Add in his $75,000 bonus for Submission of the Night, and Ortiz went home with $525,000, not counting sponsorships or other undisclosed earnings.
You math whizzes out there will note that, just with his fight purse and bonus money alone, Ortiz made $4,525.86 per second of cage time. And that $450,000 in base pay? That was guaranteed money. No win bonus necessary. Ortiz could have gone into the Octagon and laid down on the Bud Light logo for a quick nap, and he'd still have walked out with almost half a million dollars.
And -- and -- this is the kind of money he made after going 0-4-1 in his last five fights! The man hadn't won since 2006, and he still made more than twice as much in guaranteed money than the two main event fighters combined -- and that's with their respective Fight of the Night bonuses factored in.
Ortiz has since further increased his financial outlook by agreeing to step in on short notice against Rashad Evans at UFC 133. According to Dana White, he did so without demanding a pay raise, which at first seems at odds with the basic principles of the paper chase. But then you consider that he was already making nearly half a mill in guaranteed money to begin with. If he does the UFC a favor, that means he certainly can't be fired if he loses, and probably won't even be fired if he loses the next fight after that.
A lesser paper-getter might have had his vision clouded by greed, but Ortiz retained the ability to think big picture rather than going all out for the small score. Say what you will about his persona, public speaking ability, life choices, and even his fighting skills. The guy knows how to get paid, even when, ostensibly, he hasn't done all that much of late to deserve it. Who else in the UFC can lose that many fights and stay employed, much less walk out with a wallet that fat at the end of the night?
It's like an old baseball card that some grandmother finds in her barn in Iowa. It has no one true value. No price that is or is not just and fair. So what's it worth? Brother, it's worth whatever you can convince someone to pay for it.
Lately, it's the convincing that Ortiz has really excelled at. And for that, we have no choice but to salute him.
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