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How Many Athletes Have Made $100 Million in a Single Year?

Last Updated: July 21, 2021
The ultra-exclusive club just added two new members: MMA icon Conor McGregor and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.

Renewing an annual tradition in the sports money game, Tuesday marked the release of Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes over the past year. A handful of names are utterly predictable at or near the top — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo print money as automatically as they bag golazos — but this year’s list has the distinction of not just introducing a first-timer at No. 1 but welcoming two new members to an all-time exclusive club.

Athletes who have earned $100 million in the span of a year.

Before, there were seven. Now, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott checks into Forbes’ No. 4 spot for 2021 with $107.5 million, while UFC superstar Conor McGregor takes top honors with an incredible $180 million.

So, what does the full $100 Million Club look like now? Let’s run through this elite group in order of the highest single-year earnings.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (2014, 2015, 2018)

Highest single-year earnings: $300 million

You don’t get a nickname like Money for no reason.


Floyd Mayweather may not have cracked a Forbes top 10 since 2018, but among athlete earners all-time, he’s got a claim for being the GOAT. No active sports star has ever matched the $300 million he boasted on the 2015 Forbes list. That was almost all due to his super-fight against Manny Pacquiao that year — the richest in the history of boxing — which earned him approximately a quarter of a billion dollars in one night.

All told, Pretty Boy Floyd’s made $100 million in a year three different times. After he fights Logan Paul this summer, he may be on his way to a record-tying fourth.

Conor McGregor (2021)

Highest single-year earnings: $180 million

Despite earning “only” $22 million in salary as a mixed martial artist, no active athlete has earned more in the past year than Conor McGregor, period, The Notorious has fought just once in the last 12 months, but he can’t be too sour on his January TKO loss to Dustin Poirier after he and his business partners sold their stake in his Proper No. 12 whiskey brand.

When the deal went final in April, the Irish striker cashed in to the tune of a reported $150 million.

Manny Pacquiao (2015)

Highest single-year earnings: $160 million

Pac Man just won’t stop. At 42 years old, the Filipino legend remains the WBA welterweight champion of the world — and one of the biggest draws in boxing.

He pocketed $120 million from the Mayweather fight, propelling him to $160 million and a runner-up spot on the 2015 Forbes list to you-know-who. For his troubles, he ended up ranking No. 8 among the highest-earning athletes of the previous decade (2010-19).

Lionel Messi (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)

Highest single-year earnings: $130 million

If there was any lingering confusion about what the biggest sport in the world truly was and is, take a long look at Lionel Messi.

Whenever he decides to retire, FC Barcelona’s resident magician will be able to claim GOAT status in global soccer. His goal-scoring is otherworldly, his footwork is magisterial, and his personal brand has more economic influence than plenty of opposing nations he’s vanquished while wearing an Argentina national team shirt.

His four consecutive years as a $100 Million Man are unsurpassed, claiming the No. 1 spot in 2019 with $92 million in on-field earnings and $35 million in endorsements. He followed things up with a No. 2 finish this year behind McGregor, thanks to a $130 million haul.

Cristiano Ronaldo (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)

Highest single-year earnings: $120 million

Wherever Messi goes, ol’ CR7 is often either just ahead or just behind. Cristiano Ronaldo is the only athlete on earth besides Messi that can claim four years earning above $100 million, an active streak that follows two straight years as Forbes’ No. 1 highest-earning athlete.

The Juventus and Portugal star man may be 36, but his name and face are as influential as ever. And his $50 million in endorsements, per the 2021 list? That number beats Messi by a noticeable margin.

Tiger Woods (2008, 2009)

Highest single-year earnings: $109.6 million

Depending on whose estimates you use, Tiger Woods might just be the No. 2 highest-earning athlete of all time after Michael Jordan. An endorsement dynamo even when he isn’t keeping an active PGA Tour schedule, Statista’s data maintain that he’s the first athlete ever to have earned in excess of $100 million in 12 months, hitting that figure in 2008 and repeating in ’09.

It would be five years before anyone else would hit the milestone.

One of an incredibly small handful of athletes who can boast over $1 billion in earnings over the course of his life, Tiger is a multinational corporation unto himself. And he’s got staying power to boot — in 2020, he broke back into Forbes’ annual top 10 after a four-year absence.

Dak Prescott (2021)

Highest single-year earnings: $107.5 million

Yes, you read that correctly. Thanks in large part to his spiffy new contract’s astronomical $66 million signing bonus, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the first football player to earn $100 million in a year – per Forbes’ numbers, the previous all-time high was the $89.5 million Russell Wilson was credited with on the 2019 list.

The real eye-popper? In terms of on-field salary alone, nobody on earth is topping Dak this year. A full $97.5 million in football money came his way, something even Messi can’t match.

Roger Federer (2020)

Highest single-year earnings: $106.3 million

He may be the meek, unassuming type, but the biggest brand in tennis absolutely belongs to Roger Federer. He topped Forbes’ 2020 earnings list thanks to an incredible $100 million in endorsement income from deals with companies like Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, Wilson, Credit Suisse, Moet, and Uniqlo.

He’s also a major investor in ON, a sneaker brand based in his home country of Switzerland, which has plans for an IPO this fall.

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Neymar (2019)

Highest single-year earnings: $105 million

While he’s no longer the youngest man in the $100 Million Club thanks to Dak’s arrival, PSG and Brazil superstar Neymar has already made Forbes’ top 10 four times despite being just 29 years of age. Neymar’s best single-year mark is the $105 million he’s credited with on the 2019 list but has been no lower than $95 million in the last two years since then.

Something that might stop the goal machine from hitting the $1 billion career milestone? Endorsements, as his off-field earnings are merely a quarter the size of what he made on the field over the past year. But with time on his side — and a colossal social media following only surpassed by Ronaldo and Messi among athletes worldwide — he could be in the GOAT conversation by the time his playing days wind down.

About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.