Despite professional sport being significantly impacted by the pandemic, for the very highest earners, coronavirus appeared to barely register.
Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor has taken out the top spot in the Forbes top-10 athlete rich list after earning an estimated $US180 million ($232 million) over the past 12 months.
He was one of a record four athletes who took home over $US100 million ($129 million) in earnings — primarily as a result of their off-field earning power.
Forbes reported that the 10 highest paid athletes earned a combined $US1.05 billion ($1.36 billion) between May 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021, just short of 2018’s record of $1.06 billion.
McGregor only fought once in the octagon during the report period — when he was defeated by Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 in January, for which he earned an estimated $US22 million ($28.5 million) — but still topped the list thanks to his portfolio of businesses.
The 32-year-old Irishman earned $US158 million ($204 million) away from his sporting activities, most of which came from the sale of his whiskey brand for $US150 million ($194 million).
McGregor became only the third active sportsman to earn more than $US70 million ($90.5 million) in a single year outside of their sporting earnings while still actively competing, after Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.
Forbes says off-field income is an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing income, plus cash returns from businesses operated by the athlete.
Football players Lionel Messi ($US130 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($US120 million) also topped $US100 million in earnings, as did Dallas Cowboys NFL star Dak Prescott ($US107.5 million).
Those four join Woods, Federer, Neymar, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather in being the only athletes to earn more than $US100 million in a year.
Federer’s off-field earning potential ensured the 39-year-old remained in the top 10, with all but $US30,000 of his $US90 million earnings coming from off-field endorsements.
There were no female athletes in the top 10.
Last year, Naomi Osaka was the highest earning female athlete at 29th overall, taking home $US37.4 million off the back of $US34 million in off-court earnings.