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The World's Highest Paid Athletes List 2021

For the last year elite sport has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus, with many major events canceled or postponed, though there are still plenty of athletes earning big bucks.

The top earner for 2021 was Conor McGregor, with earnings totaling 180 million US dollars, much more than last year's number one, Roger Federer, who has dropped to seventh. It may not be a fair comparison, as the majority of McGregor's earnings came from the sale of his whiskey brand, not from his sporting performances. It is McGregor's second appearance in the top-ten list, he was 4th in 2018.

Below is the top-10 of the highest earning sportspeople for 2021, taken from the annual list of highest-paid athletes published by Forbes magazine in June 2021. This year, only the top 50 was published instead of the usual top 100.

The earnings totals (in US dollars) are derived from salaries, bonuses, prize money, appearance fees, licensing and endorsement income in the 12 months from May 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021. Taxes or agents' fees are not factored into the figures. See also the Forbes top-earning lists from other years.

Top-10 Highest Earning Sports people from 2021

Rank Name Sport Nationality Earnings ($ million) Previous Year
1 Conor McGregor MMA Ireland 180 16
2 Lionel Messi Soccer Argentina 130 3
3 Cristiano Ronaldo Soccer Portugal 120 2
4 Dak Prescott American Football USA 107.5 >100
5 LeBron James Basketball USA 96.5 5
6 Neymar Soccer Brazil 95 4
7 Roger Federer Tennis Switzerland 90 1
8 Lewis Hamilton F1 England 82 13
9 Tom Brady American Football USA 76 21
10 Kevin Durant Basketball USA 75 7

Next on the list were: Steven Curry, Naomi Osaka, Tiger Woods, Russell Westbrook, Patrick Mahomes, James Harden, David Bakhtiari, Ronnie Stanley, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dustin Johnson.

A UFC MMA flighter tops the list for the first timeA UFC MMA flighter tops the list for the first time in 2021

Highest Ranked For Each Sport in 2021

The highest ranked athlete from each sport is listed below. This year 8 different sports were represented on the list.

Overall Rank Name Sport earning ($ million)
1 Conor McGregor MMA 180
2 Lionel Messi Soccer 130
4 Dak Prescott American Football 107.5
5 LeBron James Basketball 96.5
7 Roger Federer Tennis 90
8 Lewis Hamilton Auto Racing 82
12 Tiger Woods Golf 60
48 Canelo Alvarez Boxing 34

source: The top50 list was published on the Forbes website in May 2021.

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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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