UFC's Conor McGregor fulfills prediction he’d be crowned world's highest-paid athlete

  • 13/05/2021

UFC superstar Conor McGregor has topped Forbes' annual list of the world's highest paid athletes.

Through the past 12 months, the former lightweight and featherweight world champion earned $US180 million ($NZ251m), putting him at No.1 on the US business publication's rankings.

Most of that sum comes from the sale of McGregor's majority stake in the Proper No.12 whiskey brand, which alone netted him $US150m ($NZ209m).

In 2017, McGregor predicted he'd eventually climb his way to the top, warning Juventus footballer Cristiano Ronaldo of his plans to eventually overtake him.

"You were No.1 on the Forbes list, I was like No. 35 or something," McGregor said to Ronaldo during a one-off training session.

"I'll get up. Maybe next year I'll get you."

The brash Irishman has only fought once in the past year, losing via technical knockout to American Dustin Poirier in their rematch at UFC 257 in January. They'll complete their trilogy of bouts at UFC 264 in July.

Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi was second on the latest list and set a record as the highest-earning footballer for a year, bringing home $US130m ($NZ181m), while Ronaldo earned $US120m ($NZ167m) to sit third. 

NFL quarterback Dak Prescott ($US107.5m/$NZ150m) of Dallas Cowboys and four-time NBA champion LeBron James ($US96.5m/$NZ134m) of Los Angeles Lakers rounded out the top five.

Brazil and Paris St Germain’s Neymar is the third of three footballers on the list, coming in sixth with $US95m ($NZ132.5).

Fresh off his sixth career NFL Super Bowl victory, Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Tom Brady ($US76m/$NZ106m) comes in ninth, one spot below Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton ($US82m/$NZ114m) in eighth.

Forbes says on-field earnings figures include all prizemoney, salaries and bonuses earned during the 12-month period, while off-field earnings are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing income.

Forbes' Top 10 highest-paid athletes:

  1. Conor McGregor - $US180 million ($NZ251m)

  2. Lionel Messi - $US130m ($NZ181m)

  3. Cristiano Ronaldo - $US120m ($NZ167m) 

  4. Dak Prescott - $US107.5m ($NZ150m) 

  5. LeBron James - $US96.5m ($NZ134m)

  6. Neymar - $US95m ($NZ132.5)

  7. Roger Federer - $US90m ($NZ125.5m)

  8. Lewis Hamilton - $US82m ($NZ114m)

  9. Tom Brady - $US76m ($NZ106m)

  10. Kevin Durant - $US75m ($NZ104m)