'Forbes' Names Conor McGregor, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo As the Highest-Paid Athletes of 2021

The top 10 athletes earned a pretax gross amount of $1.05 billion USD in the past 12 months.

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Forbes has unveiled its annual list of the 10 highest-paid athletes of the year, with Conor McGregor, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo taking the top three spots.

The UFC icon lands at No. 1 for the first time as he earned a total of $180 million USD over the last 12 months. A majority of his earnings are from the recent $150 million USD sale of his majority stake in the whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve, but the addition of his endorsements increases his off-the-field earnings to $158 million USD. McGregor was also paid a whopping $22 million USD for his Octagon return versus Dustin Poirier during UFC 257.

At Nos. 2 and 3 are soccer icons Messi and Ronaldo, earning $130 million USD and $120 million USD respectively. Messi made $97 million USD on the field and $33 million USD off the field thanks to sponsorships, a lifetime deal with adidas and a clothing line with Ginny Hilfiger, while Ronaldo made $70 million USD on the field and $50 million USD off the field with a lifetime deal with Nike and his CR7 business.

The rest of the top 10 are comprised of NFL quarterback Dak Prescott, who broke the record for NFL players with $107.5 million USD in earnings. LeBron James enters at No. 5 as the highest-paid NBA player with $96.5 million USD — also a record for NBA players — followed by Neymar at No. 6 with $95 million USD. Roger Federer, 2020’s highest-paid athlete, moves down to No. 7 with $90 million USD, while Lewis Hamilton appears at No. 8 as the only F1 driver on the top 10 with $82 million USD. Closing out this year’s list are Tom Brady with $76 million USD and Kevin Durant with $75 million USD.

Take a look at all the earnings’ breakdowns on Forbes.

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