September 14, 2021
Melinda Head

Highest Paid Athletes

These athletes have definitely secured the bag

I’m pretty good with numbers, are you? This infographic tells a very interesting story:

Click to see the full infographic

#1 Conor McGregor

The highest paid athlete in the world is a man whose job description has been described as “turning dangerous men into unconscious boys”. Dubbed “Notorious”, Conor McGregor is a southpaw boxer from Ireland, who also has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In 2015, he won the UFC Featherweight Championship with a knockout 13 seconds into the first round, establishing a new record for the fastest victory in UFC title fight history. He then went on to earn the UFC Lightweight Championship, becoming the first fighter in UFC history to hold titles in 2 divisions simultaneously. It’s hard to believe that he almost became a plumber.

Conor McGregor has reportedly earnings of $180 million in 2021. As McGregor says, “I want to negotiate what I’m worth. I want to put my analytics forward, man-to-man, and be like, “This is what I’m owed now. Pay me.” article: Conor McGregor

#2 Lionel Messi

The diminutive Lionel (Leo) Messi, who is only 5’7” tall, is a left-footed scorer for Paris Saint-Germain who had only played for FC Barcelona (and the Argentinian national team), before joining PSG in August 2021 at age 34. The Argentinian is described as the greatest footballer (we call it soccer in America) of modern times.

Leo Messi has reportedly earnings of $130 million in 2021. A devoted family man, Messi is not a self-promoter, preferring, instead, to prove what he can do on the field

This humble man, who used to serve tea to fund his training, has much to teach the world.

#3 Cristiano Ronaldo

Who hasn’t heard of him … even if you’re not familiar with European football (aka soccer in America)?

Hailing from the island of Madeira in Portugal, Cristiano was born into an impoverished family with an alcoholic father. He left school at age 14, underwent surgery to repair an irregular heart beat and set his sights on football.

This 6’1” muscle machine is predominantly a right-footer, though he is very strong with both feet. Among his many techniques and tricks, he uses dribbling, step-overs, chops and the flip-flap to awe anyone who watches him play. Wanna knock a ball into the net using your head? Check out what it takes to master a header:

Unlike Messi, Ronaldo has strong leadership skills and takes great pleasure in public theatrics and adoration. Many compare the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry to that of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier (boxing), Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe (tennis), or Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost (F1).

“One of them (Ronaldo) has more expenses for the hairdresser than the other.” (FIFA President, Sepp Blatter)

Unlike his contemporaries, Ronaldo has no tattoos adoring his incredibly athletic body, which he obviously worships.

Cristiano Ronaldo has the highest salary of any athlete, receiving $662,500 every week ($34.4 million per annum) … and then it is topped up with a mere $95.6 million in “other” income

Rather than just focussing on Ronaldo, let’s watch this clip from “Playbook”, a great Netflix series in which coaches (including fellow Portuguese countryman Jose Mourinho) reveal how they achieve success with elite athletes.

Netflix Documentary: "The Playbook"

So, by now you’re probably wondering, where are the Americans in all of this? Not in the Top 3. In 2021, the highest paid U.S. athlete is Dak Prescott.

Rayne Dakota (Dak) Prescott is the highest paid American athlete, with earnings of $107.5 million in 2021

An NFL quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, this bi-racial 6’2” 228 lb. Louisiana native has had to overcome many obstacles. His truck-stop manager mother died prematurely from colon cancer in 2013. His brother committed suicide just as COVID-19 was rearing its ugly head in April 2020. Despite only being selected as the 135th pick in the 4th round as a backup player, he flew into stardom as NFL Rookie of the Year … but, in October 2020, he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation to his right ankle, followed by a latissimus strain in his right shoulder during training camp in July 2021 – missing 333 days of play.

Despite all of this, Dak recently received a $66 million signing bonus to extend his contract a further 4 years – the highest in NFL history. This is a far cry from the $383,393 signing bonus and $2.7 million deal he received as a rookie. Recently Prescott was lured away from Adidas to Jordan (owned by Nike), as the Company tries to make a mark in football. “The Last Dance” is a 10 episode documentary about basketball icon Michael Jordan, who receives about 10% of revenue from the $10 billion Jordan brand; will Dak Prescott be his football equivalent? We think the series is worth a watch:

Dak now lives in a 9,000 sq. ft. mansion with his own private football field. That said, he is committed to social injustice and mental health -- causes which we hope he continues to advance.

Now what about women … who is the highest paid female athlete? No surprise: Naomi Osaka. Our FACT-ory blog covered this bi-racial Japanese-Haitian American in February.

A turning point in Naomi Osaka’s career was her 2020 US Women’s Open Tennis Championship win against Serena Williams. Expected to bring in $60 million in 2021, less than 10% of her income comes from playing tennis

The IMG sports marketing team has done a fabulous job promoting Osaka, who is young, pretty and, as the world has seen in the past several months, highly vulnerable. We wish her well as she takes further time off to work on her mental health.

Naomi Osaka sported red extensions during the Tokyo Summer Olympics, celebrating her Japanese heritage

Serena Williams is the only other female athlete to make it onto the list of the Top 50 highest paid athletes, at $41.5 million. Do the math, that’s 4% of the elite field. Not a single woman can be found in the Top 10. What’s wrong here, folks? Do you know, or have you forgotten, that women drive 70-80% of all purchasing through a combination of their buying power and influence? Sponsors, shall we stop buying your products? Please step up and make this right. Surely the almighty buck is of interest to your shareholders?

Now challenge yourself and your friends to our Highest Paid Athletes Quiz of the Day, by downloading Quizefy from the app store if you haven’t already done so, then see how much you know and Strut Your Smart. Our Highest Paid Athletes Quiz is only available today, then it disappears. We’ll be back again every Tuesday with a special blog posted at, along with a new trivia quiz on the same topic as the blog. Don’t forget to follow Quizefy in social media, so we can remind you of upcoming blog and quiz content.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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