In 2016, Conor McGregor boasted to soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo that he’d overtake him at some point as sports activities’ highest-paid star. This yr, the UFC fighter did simply that.
It’s 12:30 a.m. in Dubai when Conor McGregor lastly knocks off coaching for a July rematch with Dustin Poirier to leap on the cellphone with Forbes.
“It’s been a very long time coming, and I’ve been ready on the decision, to be trustworthy,” McGregor says, having discovered that he’s the previous yr’s top-earning athlete. It’s a laurel the Irish brawler, former UFC champ and someday boxer foretold in a now-famous video clip from 2016 during which he banters with soccer celebrity Cristiano Ronaldo—that yr’s No. 1, with $88 million—telling him he would supplant him “perhaps subsequent yr.” In Might, McGregor, 32, made good on his vow, celebrating his ascent by tweeting pictures of a freshly baked cake mocked as much as appear like a Forbes cowl. “I’m glad I pipped Ronaldo this yr,” he says.
Choosing fights has lengthy been key to McGregor’s success—and a gradual supply of controversy. He started his profession at age 12 on the Crumlin Boxing Membership within the suburbs of Dublin. Whereas working as a plumber’s apprentice and dwelling on the dole, he started preventing for scraps on the native blended martial arts circuit.
He made his UFC debut in 2013, forging a successful streak that made him featherweight champion in 2015 and the light-weight winner a yr later. He’s not thought-about essentially the most technically adept fighter, however his explosive mixture of potential, fashion and trash speak, and his massive persona, have made him a family identify. His largest payday got here when he broke out of the MMA cage for a 2017 boxing match with nine-time world-title holder Floyd Mayweather Jr. He misplaced however made $85 million for his bother, a part of a $99 million haul for Forbes’ 2018 listing. Mayweather took house $285 million in the identical timeframe.
“I’m in debt to the robust instances,” says McGregor, who spent years simply scraping by. “As a result of if you break by way of, you might be an unstoppable power.”
Allegations of unhealthy conduct, together with sexual assault, have adopted his rise to fame. A case in Eire was dropped after a police investigation, however he nonetheless faces a civil swimsuit over the matter. He denies all accusations. In 2019, a Dublin bar battle with an older man was caught on video. “I used to be within the unsuitable,” McGregor told ESPN. “That man deserved to take pleasure in his time within the pub with out having it finish the way in which it did.”
Neither authorized bother nor the pandemic has sidelined McGregor, who earned $22 million from his single battle within the UFC Octagon over the past yr (which he misplaced), plus $8 million in product endorsements. The majority of his earnings up to now 12 months got here from the $150 million (pretax) he earned promoting his majority stake in his whiskey model, Correct No. Twelve. That propelled him previous Lionel Messi, second on the 2021 ranking of the world’s highest-paid athletes with $130 million, and Ronaldo, No. 3 at $120 million.
McGregor’s transfer into booze was solely strategic. “I might have taken the simple cash,” he says of his resolution to transcend fundamental endorsements and begin the liquor enterprise in 2018. “I might have taken the short buck. [But] I took the chance. I put my coronary heart and soul into it, and it’s paid off.”
For inspiration, he seemed to that the majority Irish beverage purveyor, Arthur Guinness, and got down to create an unmistakable whiskey of Éire: Irish soil, Irish spring water and Irish grain, all distilled on the “excellent plot” in County Antrim in Northern Eire, within the Bushmills Distillery owned by Mexican booze big Becle (greatest recognized for Jose Cuervo), which on the outset owned a minority stake in Correct No. Twelve.
“In Eire we have now grasp distillers and we have now grasp drinkers. My grandfather was a grasp drinker,” McGregor says. “He would all the time inform me that Eire had been the world champions at making whiskey.” In beneath three years, 6 million bottles of Correct have shipped, and in April, Becle and Correct No. Twelve introduced Becle had purchased out most of McGregor’s stake.
Nonetheless in pristine form, he doubtless has loads of battle left. “I do know a number of these athletes on this listing, you already know they make a lot from their sport, a lot from their endorsements,” he says, by the use of noting that he earned the majority of his cash not within the ring however as an entrepreneur. “I’m most likely the exact opposite. I’m an outlier. I’m a disrupter.”