The past 12 months didn’t exactly do wonders for Conor McGregor’s MMA career, but he had plenty of other reasons to remain in good spirits.
To put it another way, his ranking atop a new list of highest-paid athletes can be distilled down to his outside-the-Octagon pursuits.
That’s because the time McGregor has spent moonshining . . . er, moonlighting as a whiskey entrepreneur has recently paid off in a big way. He was able to sell his stake in the company that produces bottles of Proper No. Twelve as part of a $150 million deal in March.
That pushed the Irishman to a properly impressive No. 1 perch in Forbes’ latest list of highly successful sports figures, which was published on Wednesday. McGregor was credited with earnings of $180 million from May 1, 2020, to May 1 of this year.
Of that total, $22 million came from his one fight over the past year, a January loss to Dustin Poirier via second-round TKO. That gave McGregor as many losses as wins in his past six UFC bouts, dating back to March 2016. Add in a boxing loss to Floyd Mayweather in August 2017, and McGregor is 3-4 in that span. But those might not be the numbers that mean the most to him.
McGregor was reportedly guaranteed a minimum of $30 million for the Mayweather fight and after all was said and done, he claimed to have made “around” $100 million from the pay-per-view event. Forbes gave him an estimate of $85 million for that fight and $99 million for that calendar period, including endorsements, good for a fourth-place ranking on the website’s 2018 athlete list.
Mayweather, not surprisingly, topped that list after being the primary beneficiary of the McGregor fight. He was followed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who, given their enormous salaries and worldwide fame, have been fixtures on Forbes’ lists. This year, the duo came in second and third again, with fellow soccer superstar Neymar ($95 million) ranked sixth. Another pair of international icons, tennis legend Roger Federer ($90 million) and Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton ($82 million), also landed in the top 10. With knee issues keeping Federer off the court from February 2020 to March of this year, his total was based entirely on endorsements.
Americans were also well-represented this year, led by Dak Prescott at No. 4. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback’s four-year, $160 million contract that he agreed to in March included a $66 million signing bonus, paid immediately. That helped him get to $97.5 million in on-the-field earnings and a total of $107.5 million over the past 12 months.
Rounding out the top 10 were the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James ($96.5 million), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady ($76 million) and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant ($75 million).
According to the Irish Times, McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve was the fourth-best-selling Irish whiskey in 2019, behind only a trio of long-established brands in Jameson, Tullamore Dew and Bushmills. A product of Dublin’s Crumlin neighborhood – in postal district No. 12 – McGregor established his distilling venture, Eire Born Spirits, in 2018.