It is no secret that the world’s most prominent athletes and sports stars earn astronomical sums of money.
They command huge salaries, mega bonuses and have tons of earning potential from endorsement deals from the world’s biggest and best-known brands.
Last year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s best athletes played to empty or partially empty stadiums. Did that damage their earnings? Not one little bit. Conor McGregor became, According to Forbes, the highest paid athlete in the world today. The MMA star leads the top ten highest-earning sports stars earned a staggering $1.05 billion in pretax gross earnings over the past 12 months, a 28% increase on last year’s top ten.
It is the first time that McGregor tops the famous list, surprising everyone, as when we think of the highest paid person in the sport, we immediately look to Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo. The fighter, who ranked 4th in 2018 and was out of the rankings in the latest releases. The athlete constantly squanders his fortune on yachts, planes, luxury cars, or expensive watches. Messi and Cristiano were remembered in different ways.
The Argentine for the controversy over the leaking of the contract with Barcelona and the Portuguese for their popularity on social media.
And to top off the TOP 5, we have Dallas Cowboys football player Dark Prescott and Lakers star Lebron James.
Leader on the 2019 list, Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, who only played at the Australian Open in 2023 due to the pandemic and physical problems, dropped to seventh with 90 million dollars, almost all of them made out of the ‘courts’.
Let us take a look at who the five biggest earners were for 2023.
1. Conor McGregor – $180 million
Conor McGregor has earned an almost unbelievable $180 million in the last 12 months. Just $22 million of that huge number comes from him fighting in the UFC; he earned about $158 million outside the Octagon. McGregor sent bettors to the best sportsbooks online when he faced Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, his first fight in a year. The Irishman’s return was interrupted in the second round, when Poirier won by TKO. Still, McGregor raised $22 million, which is not a bad financial result.
To reach the classification, McGregor hardly needed to fight. He ousted Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who usually occupy the leadership of the ranking, due to businesses outside the sports universe. He sold his majority stake in whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve to Proximo Spirits for $150 million. More money flowed in from endorsements such as DraftKings, video game Dystopia: Contest of Heroes, and Roots of Fight lifestyle brand.
The MMA fighter is currently the highest paid athlete in the world. Conor McGregor is known for his provocative and extravagant style. His ringside nickname is “The Notorius,” a nickname that would suit his bank account just as well.
2. Lionel Messi – $130 million
Lionel Messi is considered one of the best soccer players to have ever kicked a ball in anger. The diminutive Argentinian is 33-years-old, so coming to the end of a glistening career, but his earnings are still out of this world.
Messi earned $97 million from his salary and bonuses at FC Barcelona despite the Spanish club being in dire financial straits — they are more than $1 billion in debt. Messi’s ridiculous contract was leaked to the press last year; it showed it is worth $674 million.
Off the field, Messi collected an additional $33 million from his deals with Adidas, Pepsi, and Ginny Hilfiger. He is likely to be high up in next year’s list after his free transfer to the French side Paris St. Germain.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – $120 million
Cristiano Ronaldo picked up $70 million in wages and a further $50 million from his off-the-field activities. Now 36-years-old, Ronaldo is showing no signs of slowing down, and neither is his earning potential.
The Portuguese star is the most followed person on social media and recently became the first person to accumulate 500 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The star is emperor when it comes to breaking records. Ronaldo has a lifetime contract with Nike and his own CR7 business that includes clothing, hotels, gyms and, more recently, food.
After playing the Euro Cup with the Portugal team, the football player returned to his current club, the Italian team Juventus. The Portuguese ace is the third highest paid in the world.
4. Dak Prescott – $107.5 million
Dak Prescott is the Dallas Cowboy’s biggest earner, with the star quarterback picking up a cool $107.5 million last year. The Cowboys selected Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft; he was the 135th overall pick. Despite the late draft, Prescott has shone and is now the biggest earner in the NFL.
Prescott signed a four-year $160 million contract extension, which came with a $66 million signing bonus, pushing his on-the-field earnings to $97.5 million. Prescott picked up an additional $10 million from endorsements and investments, including restaurant chain Walk-On.
5. LeBron James – $96.5 million
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is an astute businessman. He padded his bank account with $96.5 million last year thanks to $31.5 million from his Lakers contract and $65 million from endorsements and business returns.
He scooped a sizeable sum for his role in Space Jame: A New Legacy, signed a deal with Pepsi, and even purchased a stake in Fenway Sports Group, the vast company that owns Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox.
What about Neymar?
Neymar was in 6th position, having received US$ 95 million in the last 12 months, practically the same amount as the previous year – most of which was from his income in PSG (US$ 76 million), also remembering that in this period the attacker left Nike to become a Puma ambassador and became a skin for the Fortnite game. He is the only Brazilian in the Forbes TOP 10. Thus, Neymar is the third highest paid football player in the world.
The renewal of the contract with the PSG team should make these values even higher on next year’s list.