Wed, 31 May 2023

The MMA legend dropped out of the top 10 in the finance magazine's Highest-Paid Athletes list

UFC superstar Conor McGregor has been dethroned as the world's highest-paid athlete, according to Forbes, with Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi replacing him at the summit.

The US finance magazine released its prestigious World's Highest-Paid Athletes top 10 list on Wednesday, and detailed how Messi earned $75 million on-field and $55 million off it over the 12 last months for a total $130 million.

These earnings have been achieved by changing clubs from childhood outfit FC Barcelona to PSG last summer, but also striking a $20 million-a-year partnership with cryptocurrency group Socios in addition to maintaining endorsements with the likes of Adidas, Budweiser, Mastercard, and Pepsi.

This meant that new Saudi Arabia tourism ambassador Messi leveled generational rival Cristiano Ronaldo in off-field earnings for the first time since 2013, with the Portuguese taking third place through $115 million split into $60 million on-field and $55 million off-field.

Like Messi, Ronaldo also switched allegiances before the football season by returning to Manchester United, where he is paid a reported $32 million while also handsomely compensated at previous employers Juventus.

Yet Forbes notes that Ronaldo's unparalleled 690 million followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook combined give him leverage to "demand sky-high rates" from Nike, Clear shampoo, Herbalife and others. Ronaldo is also an investor in the Tatel group of restaurants, and fronts the ZujuGP app which hopes to foster a digital football community. 

Wedged between Messi and Ronaldo is NBA great Lebron James, who earned $121.2 million made up of $41.2 million on-court with the LA Lakers and $80 million away from it boosted by last year's 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' movie and talk show The Shop.

Last October saw James sell his stake in production company SpringHill, which was behind both projects and went for around $725 million, elevating James' net worth to an estimated $850 million.

Rounding off the top five were Messi's PSG teammate Neymar ($95 million: $70 million on-field, $25 million off-field) and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry ($92.8 million: $45.8 million on-court, $47 million off-court).

And elsewhere in the top 10, a further two NBA ballers were found in sixth-placed Kevin Durant ($92.1 million: $42.1 million on-court, $50 million off-court) and 10th-placed 'Greek Freak' Giannis Antetokounmpo ($80.9 million: $39.9 million on-court, $41 million off-court).

The remaining spots were taken by three legends across three different sports, with tennis icon Roger Federer taking seventh despite on-court earnings of just $0.7 million.

With endorsements from Uniqlo and Rolex, though, and an investment in Swiss shoe brand On back in 2019 paying off when the company went public last September raising over $600 million, the injury-strewn 40-year-old doesn't have to worry about picking up a racket ever again. 

Alternatively, eighth-placed Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez's $90 million was only $700,000 short of Federer's haul but was mostly made in the ring as opposed to outside of the squared circle.

Fighting three times in 2021 before losing his Ring and ESPN pound-for-pound number one spots when beaten by Dmitry Bivol in Las Vegas last weekend, Alvarez earned $85 million plying his trade thanks to generous purse splits and agreements with DAZN and a far less $5 million with endorsements like that from cognac giant Hennessey. 

In ninth, NFL GOAT Tom Brady's $83.9 million was split more equally with $31.9 million from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and $52 million off the gridiron while co-founding NFT platform Autograph. 

Given he has just signed a 10-year, $375 million deal to be Fox's lead NFL analyst in retirement, expect the seven-time Super Bowl winner to feature higher in future editions.

As for this edition, however, a big talking point is McGregor nosediving out of the top 10 completely - though Forbes say that he will feature in its top 50 list published later in May. 

Forbes calculated that its ten highest-paid athletes received a collective $992 million over the past 12 months which is a 6% drop when measured against 2021 but still the third-highest ever behind 2021 ($1.05 billion) and 2018 ($1.06 billion).

In 2021, however, the total sum was boosted heavily by McGregor's $180 million kitty - $150 million of which came in when he sold his Proper No. Twelve whiskey brand.

In 2018, McGregor also had an impact when the cash generated by his cross-over super fight with boxer Floyd Mayweather was taken into account.

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