Conor McGregor leads a group of sports stars insensitive to the pandemic

A record four athletes, including a quarterback and two football legends, have each earned $ 100 million or more in the past year.

For much of 2020, the world’s best athletes have been sidelined, working for reduced pay, playing in empty seats or isolated in competitive bubbles designed to thwart a pandemic that has undermined billions of dollars professional sport.

Still, for the best of the best, things couldn’t be better, at least in terms of financial clout.

The ten highest paid athletes in the world earned a pre-tax gross profit of $ 1.05 billion in the past 12 months, 28% more than the top earners last year. Combined transport drops to a few million dollars from the record high of $ 1.06 billion set in 2018, the 12-month window in which boxer Floyd Mayweather made $ 285 million, almost his entire fight at the card in 2017 with Conor McGregor.

This year McGregor landed the winning shot, having leveraged his unparalleled popularity in mixed martial arts to create a lucrative stir outside the UFC Octagon. The brash McGregor has raised a total of $ 180 million in the past 12 months; most of that comes from its recent sale of its controlling stake in the Proper No. Twelve whiskey brand to Proximo Spirits for $ 150 million. This is the 32-year-old’s first time at No.1 and his second appearance in the top ten (he landed at No.4 with $ 99 million in 2018 after the Mayweather fight). McGregor clearly wants to put his money to work even beyond alcohol: he launched the wacky idea to buy Premier League club Manchester United most valuable team, in recent tweets.

Adding his mentions, McGregor has earned $ 158 million outside of his fighting career over the past 12 months, becoming only the third athlete, after Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, to earn more than $ 70 million off the field. in a single year while still being in active competition. .

Three other athletes also surpassed $ 100 million in total earnings this year: football stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and NFL quarterback Dak Prescott. Messi, whose off-pitch drama with FC Barcelona last summer was followed by media reports about the club’s dire financial situation and the revelation that his contract was worth $ 674 million, sets a record for football players with his total of $ 130 million in 2021. Prescott, with $ 107.5 million, breaks the record for NFL players thanks to a bonus $ 66 million signing of the Dallas Cowboys. The four on this year’s list join just five other athletes – Federer, Mayweather, Neymar, Manny Pacquiao and Woods – for making more than $ 100 million in a single year. Previously, the highest revenue of $ 100 million appearing on a list was three, made in 2018, 2019 and 2020.


LeBron James was just shy to join this elite group. The Los Angeles Lakers star won $ 96.5 million, a record for NBA players. Another record set in 2021: the threshold of $ 75 million to qualify for the top ten, breaking the previous record of $ 65.4 million as of 2019. This year’s top ten also made a total of $ 512 million off the field, shattering the previous record of $ 407.5 million as of 2020.

That’s not to say that Covid-19 hasn’t impacted athlete income. Footballers at many clubs, including Messi, have seen their wages drop. Major League Baseball salaries were prorated last year as the season was shortened to 60 games, down from the usual 162. In the NBA, two shortened seasons and empty arenas resulted in urgent changes in the league’s deal with players. The adjustments to the escrow system, coupled with significantly lower earnings on match days, mean player salaries will almost certainly end up being cut by 20% this season. That translates to a haircut of over $ 7 million for James and Kevin Durant, which ranks No.10 this year with $ 75 million.

But with athletes doing more off the field than ever, the fall is more of a nuisance than a disaster.


Forbes’ field earnings figures include all cash prizes, salaries and bonuses earned between May 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021. In cases where players continue to be paid beyond May for a season regular which usually ends by then, as in NBA and European football, we award the full season salary. We ignored the salary and bonuses NBA players earned for playing in the league bubble last summer; this year’s roster numbers only reflect the 2020-21 NBA season, with a 20% reduction in base salaries due to the league’s escrow adjustment.

The off-court earnings figures are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees, and license revenues for the 12 months through May 1, as well as cash returns from all businesses operated by the athlete, on the basis for conversations with industry insiders. We do not deduct any taxes or agent fees. Our list includes athletes who are active at all times during our period.

With additional reporting from Justin Birnbaum, David Dawkins, Christina Settimi, Ariel Shapiro and Madeline Berg.

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