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Tom Brady and LeBron James are two of the most well-known athletes all around the world. Both future Hall of Famers could be considered the best to ever do it in their respective sport, too, but neither is even close to the highest-paid athlete of 2021. In fact, Brady isn’t even the highest-paid NFL quarterback on the list.

So, who took the top spot on Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-paid athletes, and how much did all of them earn in the past year?

Conor McGregor is the highest-paid athlete of 2021

Tom Brady and LeBron James earned a combined $172.5 million in 2021, but Conor McGregor tops the exclusive list with $180 million.
Conor McGregor flexes on the scale at the UFC 257 weigh-in at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island | Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

McGregor has only fought once in the last calendar year, and he was embarrassingly knocked out by Dustin Poirier in the second round. It’s a good thing the UFC cares more about bringing more eyes to the sport than actually winning fights.

Despite not winning a single bout since January of last year, McGregor earned $180 million over the last 12 months, giving him the top spot on Forbes‘ list of the 10 highest-paid athletes for 2021. It’s the first time in his UFC career that he’s topped the exclusive list.

The Notorious earned just $22 million from the UFC over the last year. The other $158 million came from various endorsements and investments outside of the octagon. McGregor earned most of his recent wealth from selling his majority stake in Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey for $150 million.

McGregor earned more than Tom Brady and LeBron James combined

Brady and James joined McGregor on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes for 2021, but they couldn’t have even caught the UFC superstar if they combined their earnings together.

James came in at No. 5 on the list with $96.5 million in earnings. Like McGregor, the Lakers forward made most of his money off the court. He earned $65 million in endorsements and investments and $31.5 million from his NBA contract.

Brady just cracked the list at No. 9 with $76 million in earnings. The Buccaneers QB earned $45 million from the team and $31 million off the field.

The two generational athletes combined to earn $172.5 million over the last 12 months, which is still shy of McGregor’s $180 million mark.

Forbes’ full list of the 10 highest-paid athletes

Behind McGregor, Lionel Messi came in at No. 2 on Forbes’ highest-paid athletes list with $130 million in earnings. Fellow soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo slotted in right behind Messi with $120 million.

The surprise name on the list has to be Dak Prescott. The Cowboys QB earned the No. 4 spot after getting paid $107.5 million over the last year. His signing bonus of $66 million from his $160 million contract sure had a lot to do with that.

Just behind James is Brazilian soccer player Neymar, who earned $95 million last year. Roger Federer is the lone tennis player on the list with $90 million in earnings, and Lewis Hamilton is the only Formula 1 athlete to crack the top 10 at $82 million.

After Brady, Kevin Durant rounds out the top 10 with $75 million in earnings.


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