Soccer

Conor McGregor tops Forbes’s list of 10 highest-paid athletes of 2021

Chris Unger, Getty

COVID-19 has had multiple devastating effects on the professional sports industry, among them massive revenue losses due to a variety of pandemic-related factors. But much like in the world beyond it, the very top earners in sports have been relatively untouched and are still making bank.

On Wednesday, Forbes released its annual ranking of the world’s Top 10 highest-paid athletes of 2021, with UFC’s Conor McGregor leading the way with $180 million in earnings over the last 12 months. Two soccer stars — Barcelona’s Lionel Messi ($130M) and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo ($120M) — were second and third, followed by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott ($107.5M) and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James ($96.5M).

Here’s the entire top ten:

  • Conor McGregor, UFC: $180 million
  • Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Barcelona: $130 million
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus: $120 million
  • Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: $107.5 million
  • LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: $96.5 million
  • Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain: $95 million
  • Roger Federer, tennis: $90 million
  • Lewis Hamilton, F1: $82 million
  • Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $76 million
  • Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets: $75 million

While the majority of McGregor’s earnings came from the sale of his whiskey brand, he also earned $22 million in an appearance at UFC 257 in January.

This year marks the first time that four athletes have topped over $100 million in earnings on Forbes’ list, and the four join just five other athletes – Federer, Neymar, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and Tiger Woods – in having earned over $100 million in a single year.

In compiling their on-field earning figures, Forbes used a methodology that accounted for all prize money, salaries, and bonuses in a period spanning from May 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021. Meanwhile, off-field earnings were tabulated through an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees, and licensing income in that same period, as well as cash returns from any business operated by the athlete. 



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