In the world of professional fighting, there's no better way to get both than to smash opponents at a frantic pace, which is exactly what this year's GDP Award recipient has done.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone entered the UFC in early 2011 and promptly won four fights in the span of eight months. In those four fights he hit the UFC bonus trifecta, earning post-fight awards for Fight of the Night, Submission of the Night, and Knockout of the Night. That's $215,000 in bonus checks alone for the "Cowboy," and his year isn't done yet.
With a fight against Nate Diaz at UFC 141 on December 30, Cerrone has the ability to stack even more paper before 2011 ends. He also has a chance to be the only UFC fighter with five wins in 2011, which couldn't help but edge him closer to a title shot in the crowded lightweight division.
And yet, one of the great things about Cerrone is that he seems pretty unconcerned with things like title shots. His fighting style has developed a simple, unassuming brutality to it lately. It's not pretentious or flashy. He doesn't try to intimidate people with how badly he wants to visit great physical harm on them. Some fighters are mean the way attack dogs are mean. They snarl and growl and flash their teeth, and if you make them they'll back up those threats with sudden spasms of violence. Cerrone's mean like an ice age is mean. The man is flatly indifferent to your suffering, yet relentlessly advancing.
After the fourth win of the year, that's where a lot of lightweights might have opted to slow down and wait for the title picture to clear up. But Cerrone? Cerrone fights like he's in debt to a loan shark. He fights like he needs to buy a kidney off the black market, and soon. He does not have time for your rankings or your divisional maneuvering; he needs to get paid, son.
Whether you like that attitude or not, you have to respect it. Here is a man who knows that even if money can't buy happiness, it's still a damn good start.
"Cowboy," the GDP Award salutes your cold-hearted paper chase. Go get you some, Donald Cerrone.
2: Dan Henderson
At 41 years old, Hendo is clocking a cool quarter-mill every time he steps in the cage. No win bonus? No problem. Not when you're making that kind of cheese just to show up. 2011 saw him down "Feijao" Cavalcante, Fedor Emelianenko, and "Shogun" Rua. Remember when Dana White let him slip from the UFC to Strikeforce because he didn't think Henderson was worth his asking price? Look who's having the last laugh now, and all the way to the bank.
3: Jon Jones
The champ fought four times in 2011, taking out three former UFC champions in dominant fashion and making championship money to do so. Just in case his paycheck wasn't big enough already, he won end of the night bonuses in three of those four fights. Dude is 24 years old and driving around in a Bentley. You better believe there'll be some fat stockings hung by the chimney with care over at the Jones house this Christmas.
4: Tito Ortiz
The mid-year recipient of this award has fought twice since earning the honor, losing both times. Then again, the award is about getting paid -- not about winning. In fact, if anything it's almost more impressive that the guy still makes so much money despite going 1-6-1 in his last eight fights. If you're worth whatever you can convince someone to pay you, then Ortiz is still a valuable commodity. For a little while, anyway.
5: Michael Bisping
He reportedly cost himself a post-fight bonus with his antics in the Jorge Rivera fight back in February, but he made a whopping $425,000 for beating "Mayhem" Miller at the TUF 14 Finale. To put that in perspective, the total reported gate for that event was only $452,700. The fans in Vegas that night could have saved everyone some time and just handed their wallets over to Bisping at the door.
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