Conor McGregor is the self-proclaimed king of the UFC and its hard to deny his claims on that title.
Despite the Irish fighter only stepping into the octagon a handful of times since 2016, he continues to be the promotions most marketable asset.
McGregor is returning to the Octagon on Saturday night
For many years, mixed martial arts was more of a fringe sport that steadily grew in popularity thanks to a devoted fanbase.
McGregor helped bring the sport to the mainstream and that is reflected by how much money he makes.
Despite fighting just once in 2020, he still ranked as one of the best paid sports stars on the planet.
McGregor will come out of retirement this weekend as he takes on Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 on Fight Island and a measure of his appeal will be seen in the volume of interest the main event produces.
When a McGregor fight is on, something different happens and he certainly rivals Cristiano Ronaldo, Lewis Hamilton and Anthony Joshua for mainstream superstardom.
There are only a handful of athletes on the planet who can bring traffic to a standstill.
@notoriousmma (Instagram)
Conor McGregor is one of the highest paid athletes in the world
Conor McGregor
Social media following – 8.4m Twitter, 38.4m Instagram
Earnings in 2020 – $48m (£38m), Forbes no.53
McGregor has only entered the octagon twice since 2016 but incredibly is still one of the highest paid sports stars in the world.
He is reportedly said to have made $30million from his first round knockout of Donald Cerrone in January 2020.
His sponsorship deal with Reebok nets him $5million per year and his Proper No. Twelve Irish whiskey continues to be a huge moneymaker.
McGregors fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018 holds the record for most PPV buys (2.4m), while his clash with Cerrone was the biggest in 2020 with more than 1.4m.
The fight lasted just 40 seconds with some reports suggesting he could have made more than £1.6million per second.
@notoriousmma (Instagram)
Conor McGregor holds the record for most PPV buys
In 2015, he was paid around £385k to fight Jose Aldo and landed five blows on Aldo, earning £77k per strike in his 13-second featherweight title win.
A year later, against Eddie Alvarez, he earned about £2.31m, which equates to about £57,750 per strike – he landed 40 this time en route to winning another UFC belt.
It’s a similar tale in his loss against Khabib. Taking home a basic pay of £2.31m, he landed 96 strikes on his rival, landing him £24,063 per strike.
From the NFL, NBA and Premier League, the most well known athletes have been spotted practising the billionaire strut.
Everyone wants to be his friend, even The Terminator waxed lyrical about him.
Conor is also the rare personality who has become bigger than his sport, Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in Time Magazine when McGregor was named one of their most influential people in the world in 2017.
From the first time I met Conor, I knew he wasnt the type of star you could box into one category.
His energy is absolutely contagious, to the point where you almost start shouting in an Irish accent after 30 seconds of hearing that world-famous mouth.
How his rivals for no.1 on the Forbes list rank
Cristiano Ronaldo
Social media following – 90.5m Twitter, 255.9m Instagram
Earnings in 2020 – $105m (£83m), Forbes no.4
Ronaldo is the most followed athlete on social media with a ridiculous 255.9m followers on Instagram.
He is halfway through his four-year contract with Juventus that is said to net him $64million annually.
While endorsements with Nike, Unilever, MTG, Herbalife, DAZN and Altice bring in around $45million to add to that.
His brand is one of the most recognisable in the world and Juventus reportedly sold more than 500,000 of his jerseys back in 2018 within 24 hours of him signing.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most recognisable faces on the planet
Lionel Messi
Social media following – 178.8m Instagram
Earnings in 2020 – $104m (£82m), Forbes no.5
Messi may have wanted to leave Barcelona last summer but he is still one of the highest paid athletes in the world with his contract, which expires in June, earning him roughly $80million annually.
His other endorsements, including a lifelong deal with Adidas, net him another $32million. They also include Gatorade, Huawei, Mastercard and Pepsi.
Messi as also launched his own clothing line and The Messi Store opened in Barcelona in 2019.
Messi nearly left Barcelona in the summer
Anthony Joshua
Social media following – 3.2m Twitter, 12m Instagram
Earnings in 2020 – $47m (£37.2m), Forbes no.57
AJ fought just once in 2020, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that clash with Kubrat Pulev in December netted him around £10million ($13m).
This would have been significantly higher if a full stadium had been allowed – some estimates claim he missed out on £8million.
The fight was also said to have had in excess of 600,000 PPV buys in the UK alone.
AJs rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019 also landed him a staggering £50million.
The heavyweight champion also has a range of endorsement deals with the likes of Under Armour, Beats, Jaguar Land Rover, Sky Sports and Hugo Boss.
Anthony Joshua holds multiple heavyweight world titles
Roger Federer
Social media following – 8m Instagram
Earnings in 2020 – $106.3m (£84m), Forbes no.3
Roger Federer was the highest paid athlete in the world last year due to his lucrative endorsement deals.
Federers prize money on the court has reached a respectable $130million but this is no match for the amount he gets off the court.
He penned a 10-year $300million deal with Uniqlo back in 2018 and also has deals with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Rolez, Credit Suisse Group and plenty of others.
His social media profile is not as big as some of his rivals but that has not stopped the money coming in through his endorsements.
Roger Federer has won 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles
Lewis Hamilton
Social media following – 6.1m Twitter, 21.5m Instagram
Earnings in 2020 – $54m (£42.7m), Forbes no.40
Hamilton is a seven-time world F1 champion, reigning Sports Personality of the Year and also beat multiple racing records in 2020.
His deal with Mercedes, which has now ended, was said to have paid him more than $40million per year.
Hamilton has a host of endorsement deals with the likes of Bose, LOreal, Monster Energy, Puma, Sony, Tommy Hilfiger, and Vodafone that net him in excess of $12million.
Lewis Hamilton celebrated winning a seventh F1 world title