McGregor overtakes Ronaldo and Messi on Forbes highest-paid athletes list 1 year ago

McGregor overtakes Ronaldo and Messi on Forbes highest-paid athletes list

Three football stars are in the Top 10.

Although he would always prioritise winning UFC gold and cementing his legacy as a Mixed Martial Artist, Conor McGregor will be loving the latest piece of reportage from Forbes.


Back in 2016, after he had become UFC featherweight champion but before the back-to-back fights with Nate Diaz, McGregor cracked the Top 100 of Forbes' 100 highest-paid athletes list.

Five years ago, 'The Notorious' had made an estimated $18m [$14m in salary, pay-per-view points and bonuses, with $4m in endorsements] and was tied 85th with Eden Hazard.

In 2017, the Dubliner was up to 12th but still shy of a Top 10 dominated by American sports stars and footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. McGregor entered the top five the following year, and continued to climb in 2019.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have seen many sporting organisations struggle, but sport's biggest stars - brands and thriving businesses to themselves, at this stage - continued to soar.


McGregor Credit: Getty Images

He may be fighting for his UFC legacy, against Dustin Poirier, in July but McGregor will be buoyed to see that he has finally reached the summit of that Forbes-compiled list.

The recent sale of McGregor's majority stake in whiskey brand Proper No.12, to Proximo Spirits, brought him an estimated $150m. Forbes' Brett Knight writes:


'Adding in his endorsements, McGregor made $158 million outside of his fighting career over the last 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 actively competing.'

Once again, Ronaldo and Messi feature prominently in the Top 10, with figures tallied between May 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021.


  1. Conor McGregor (UFC) - $180m
  2. Lionel Messi (Football) - $130m
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Football) - $120m
  4. Dak Prescott (NFL) - $107.5m
  5. LeBron James (NBA) - $96.5m
  6. Neymar Jr. - (Football) - $95m
  7. Roger Federer (Tennis) - $90m
  8. Lewis Hamilton (F1) - $82m
  9. Tom Brady (NFL) - $79m
  10. Kevin Durant (NBA) - $76m

Prescott, a quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys, earns the most on-field amount of the Top 10, with $97.5m coming into his coffers last year, through salary and bonus payments.

The Cowboys star is followed closely by Lionel Messi, whose on-field earnings over the past 12 months were tallied at $97m.

McGregor was credited with earning $22m for his January fight with Poirier, at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. He was beaten by TKO in that bout and his set to close out that trilogy with the American in two months' time.

You can read more on the Forbes list, and its methodology, right here.