It has been numerous years since McGregor’s big money fight against Floyd Mayweather and, since November 2016 (a year prior to the big money fight), McGregor is set to have just his fourth UFC fight in July of this year. Even then, McGregor smashed this year’s highest-paid athletes list, as suggested by research from UK website Find Betting Sites.
The figure below, taken from the research conducted by Find Betting Sites, showcases how, relative to the other 99 athletes in the list, McGregor made substantially more money from endorsements than from salaries and winnings, in comparison to the trend set by the other athletes which made the list.
McGregor’s interesting income source is explained by McGregor’s involvement in creatively pushing his own Irish whiskey brand, named Proper No. Twelve, which he himself founded in 2018. Specifically, the sale of his Irish whiskey company is worth up to $600 million for McGregor himself as well as his business partners and other businesspeople involved. Clearly, McGregor is enjoying a large cut. Supposedly the money from this deal will be paid in various tranches, as opposed to the $600 million all at once; McGregor has since received 70% of a first payment worth $245 million – insane amounts of money!
This brilliantly showcases how athletes are venturing into the area of entrepreneurship, and just the sheer amount of money that is to be made from successful venture. Also, this points to the importance of having a big following and audience, as well as a very explosive personality and character is McGregor is known to have, in turn, this helps the marketing and drives serious business to the way of the athletes.
Character and media attention brings serious results, research conducted by the Irish Whiskey Association stated that the Irish Whiskey sector surpassed the 12-million cases sold annually, in 2019. In the same year, Proper No. Twelve account for around 213’800 cases sold, up from just 38’200 the previous year and, in 2020, the brand sold a whopping 345’000 last year, in 2020. This has placed Conor McGregor’s Irish whiskey brand as the fourth-best selling Irish whiskey on the market. Although it is still far behind the top 3 largest producers, the growth has been unprecedented.
Highest paid athlete… or entrepreneur?
This points the conversation to answer the question of whether we are comparing apples to apples, or apples and oranges when we rank athletes by all of their income sources. McGregor has surely made a lot of money, but to what extent could you consider the sale of an Irish whiskey brand be anything related to athletics and sports, especially when it is then contained under the definition of ‘endorsements. Sure, it is good to have separated salaries and winnings from endorsements and other sources of income, but these outliers heavily redefine how we compare athletes when we consider their earnings.
The second highest-paid athlete on the list is Lionel Messi, who earned a total of $126 million, $91 million of which came from salaries and winnings. So, compared to McGregor’s $208 million paycheck – of which $28 million came from salaries and winnings – makes for a potentially unfair comparison.
In conclusion, there is nothing wrong about earning money as an athlete from more entrepreneurial sources, however there are an increasingly large number of moving parts when comparing the money made by athletes. It is actually, on the other hand, quite interesting to see how athletes like Conor McGregor are winning and making money from outside the Octagon, and we will probably see more athletes decide to get into business ventures, given that their value proposition comes from an immense audience.
(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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