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Connor mcgregor highest pair athelte 2021 feature

10 Highest-Paid Athletes for 2021

2021 had professional athletes back in the limelight, doing what they do best. The highest-paid athletes showcase the best in human capability. But, it was what many professional athletes earned off the playing field that really made headlines in this years Forbes highest-paid athletes list. MMA fighter and businessman Connor McGregor took home the title for this year’s highest-paid athlete, earning a massive $180 million payday for 2021, with the majority coming from the sale of his whiskey company.

The 10 highest-paid athletes in the world took home total pretax earnings of $1.05 billion during the last year. And as the Forbes graph below shows, that’s a massive 28% more than last year’s top earners. This year also marks the first time four athletes earned over $100 million – with one quarterback and two soccer legends – reaching that historic marker.

With many seasons cut short last year due to the global pandemic, stars had to turn their attention to off-field escapades. Football players, including Messi (whose contract is with $674 million), had their wages cut. Major League Baseball salaries were reduced last year as the season was shortened to 60 games, from the typical 162. And, there’s now been two shortened seasons in the NBA, and with empty arenas, a new league agreement with adjustments to the escrow system meant players salaries were reduced by up to 20% this season alone. But these are professional athlete’s we’re talking about here, and that’s not enough to stop them from earning the big bucks.

Ten years of the top ten forbes

Image: Forbes

Highest-Paid Athletes in the World – 2021

The Forbes official list of the highest-paid athletes is upon us. And this year, we’ve got a list full of huge paydays for athletes both on and off the playing field. As the graph above notates, a global pandemic wasn’t enough to stifle these competitors, with a notable increase in off-the-field sponsorship deals across the board. However, none earned more outside of the spotlight than our main man Connor McGregor who’s recent sale of Proper No. Twelve for $158 million made up a significant part of his $180 million overall earning. He also becomes only the third athlete after Roger Federer and Tiger Woods to earn more than $70 million off the field in a year while actively competing.

Without further ado, here’s the Forbes list of the 10 Highest-Paid Athletes for 2021.

Connor mcgregor highest pair athelte 2021

Image: Entrepreneur

1. Conor McGregor – US$180 million

Even though he got knocked out by Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 back in January, Connor still pocketed a whopping $22 million from the fight. Combine that with the sale of his Proper No. Twelve whiskey brand in the range of $150 million and Connor McGregor is the highest-paid athlete of 2021.

Age: 32
Sport: MMA
Nationality: Ireland
Sponsorships: Proper No. Twelve whiskeys, DraftKings, Dystopia, Roots of Fight

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Forbes richest athletes lionel messi 1

2. Lionel Messi – US$130 million

Lionel upset the entire fanbase of FC Barcelona last year with his failed attempt to leave the club. Later exposing contract dealings which lead to the leaking of remuneration details to the tune of $674 million according to Forbes. Money aside, he’s paying his dues to the community. The soccer legend sent signed jerseys to Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac to help secure 50,000 Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the Copa América soccer tournament.

Age: 33
Sport: Soccer
Nationality: Argentina
Sponsorships: Adidas (Lifetime), Clothing line (Ginny Hilfiger).

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Forbes richest athletes cristiano ronaldo

3. Christiano Ronaldo – US$120 million

Christiano Ronaldo made history when he became the first person to reach a combined 500 million followers across his social accounts. One month later he surpassed Brazilian legend Pelé’s goal tally, with 770 across all competitions including a hat trick in a Juventus win over Cagliari. Look for Ronaldo to stay towards the top of the list when his annual $64 million contract expires in 2022.

Age: 36
: Soccer
Nationality: Portugal
Sponsorships: Nike (Lifetime), CR7 business of branded clothing, accessories, hotels and gyms.

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Forbes richest athletes dak prescott

4. Dak Prescott – US$107.5 million

Backed by a gigantic signing bonus of $66 million, NFL quarterback Dak Prescott secured a four-year $160 million contract extension which pushed him into the $100-million club. This is the kind of contract you’d expect from the most important player on the most valuable sports team in the world, the Dallas Cowboys.

Age: 27
: Football
Nationality: United States
Sponsorships: Sleep number, 7/11, DirecTV, four Texas locations of Walk-On restaurant.

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Forbes richest athletes lebron james

5. Lebron James – US$96.5 million

A hallmark year from King James was backed by an NBA-record payday. After securing his fourth championship in the bubble, number 23 isn’t slowing down, debuting as a Hollywood leading man with the July release of Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Age: 36
: Basketball
Nationality: United States
Sponsorships: PepsiCo, Fenway Sports Group (Red Sox, Liverpool FC and Roush Fenway Racing).

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Forbes richest athletes neymar jr

6. Neymar – US$95 million

Boasting a total of 282 million followers on social media, not only is Neymar Jr the 3rd most followed athlete on social media, but he’s also the 6th highest-earning in the world. After announcing the early exit of his contract with Nike’s Jordan Brand, he inked a massive contract with Puma with a signature version of its King shoes.

Age: 29
: Soccer
Nationality: Brazil
Sponsorships: Puma, Fortnite.

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Forbes richest athletes roger federer

7. Roger Federer – US$90 million

A knee injury wasn’t going to stop Roger Federer from raking in the coin. According to Forbes, he made nearly all of his $90 million in earnings from sponsorships with brands like Rolex, Credit Suisse and Uniqlo. Be on the lookout for Roger to rise in the rankings as Swiss athletic company, On looks to list s an IPO in Autumn 2021.

Age: 39
: Tennis
Nationality: Switzerland
Sponsorships: On, Rolex, Credit Suisse and Uniqlo.

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Forbes richest athletes lewis hamilton

8. Lewis Hamilton – US$82 million

Living legend Lewis Hamilton is must-watch TV. Maybe our personal favourite athlete on this list, Lewis raced to his sixth Formula 1 championship in seven seasons in 2020. It was his historical success that lands him on this list for only the second time. Netting $82 million backed by 11 race wins which netted him healthy bonus payments.

Age: 36
: Formula 1
Nationality: United Kingdom
Sponsorships: Tommy Hilfiger, Monster Energy, Puma, Extreme E racing series.

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Forbes richest athletes tom brady

9. Tom Brady – US$76 million

Capping off an unbelievable season with a Lombardi trophy to boot, the 43-year-old doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. According to Forbes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback added endorsement deals with eyewear maker Christopher Cloos and apparel juggernaut Fanatics to his wealth, when he collected big bucks as a speaker on the virtual circuit and as a commercial pitchman.

Age: 43
: Football
Nationality: United States
Sponsorships: Christopher Cloos, Fanatics, TB12, film production company, NFT platform.

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Forbes richest athletes kevin durant

10. Kevin Durant – US$75 million

After suffering an Achilles injury that put him on the bench for the 2019-2020 season, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant wasn’t going to let anything stop him on his way to the second position on this list amongst basketball players. The slim reaper  (as he hates to be called) made a whopping $44 million off the court this year, with his media company Thirty-Five Ventures.

Age: 32
: Basketball
Nationality: United States
Sponsorships: Thirty-Five Ventures, Two Distant Strangers (Oscar Winning), Uber investment.

General FAQ

Who is the highest paid athlete in the world?

Connor McGregor is the highest-earning athlete in the world for 2021. He earned a whopping $180 million, $156 million of which was from the sale of Proper No. Twelve Whiskey.

How much did Connor McGregor sell his whiskey company for?

Connor McGregor sold his whiskey brand for a massive $156 million price tag.

How much money did Lebron James make in 2021?

Lebron James made a massive $96.5 million in 2021. After his long-term deal with Coca-Cola, he recently inked a new deal with competitor PepsiCo.

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About the author

About the author

Ben McKimm

Ben lives in Sydney, Australia. He has a Bachelor's Degree (Media, Technology and the Law) from Macquarie University (2020). Outside of his studies, he has spent the last decade heavily involved in the automotive, technology and fashion world. Turning his passion and expertise into a Journalist position at Man of Many where he continues to write about everything that interests the modern man. Conducting car reviews on both the road and track, hands-on reviews of cutting-edge technology and employing a vast knowledge in the space of fashion and sneakers to his work. One day he hopes to own his own brand.