Conor McGregor is a one-man juggernaut. He was fourth on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes in 2018, and he’ll be a contender to make the Top 100 in 2019 even if he doesn’t fight because of the work his management team did in securing him lucrative endorsements.
Forbes reported that in its accounting period, McGregor made $14 million from endorsements alone, with Anheuser-Busch, Burger King, Beats by Dre, Monster Energy, David August, BSN, HiSmile and Betsafe all providing a hefty income.
McGregor made the 2018 Forbes list primarily because of his 2017 bout with Floyd Mayweather, which Forbes reported (and UFC president Dana White confirmed) paid him $85 million. In 2017, Forbes had McGregor tied for 24th on the list with a total income of $34 million.
If that is accurate, it means that McGregor has earned an average of $66.5 million in each of the last two years.
With that kind of money comes a lot of scrutiny, some of it good and much of it bad. McGregor learned one of the downsides of fame on Tuesday when prominent MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz told TMZ Sports that McGregor’s running into financial problems.
Abdelaziz manages Khabib Nurmagomedov, who succeeded McGregor as UFC lightweight champion. A McGregor-Nurmagomedov fight would be massive financially, and Abdelaziz was likely just stoking the fires when he spoke to TMZ.
“Conor’s running out of money,” Abdelaziz told TMZ. “This is why he agreed to fight Khabib.”
When Yahoo Sports contacted Abdelaziz, he doubled down on his claims and pointed out that former boxing heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield went bankrupt despite making far more than McGregor has to this point.
“It’s not [expletive], it’s true,” Abdelaziz said of his claim that McGregor is running out of money. “I talked to someone who told me, he flies that private plane around everywhere and it costs $200,000 just to start that thing up. And he made that hundred million against Floyd, but he didn’t get all that. After the taxes and he paid everybody, it was $50 million, or a little less.
“I have respect for him. He’s a two-division champion and he did something no one else did. He’s a good fighter. But I’m telling you the truth. It’s no surprise.”
White told Yahoo Sports by text message that McGregor has plenty of money.
“Forget the Floyd fight,” White said. “Conor had a s—load of money before that fight.”
Abdelaziz is a great agitator, as well as a tireless advocate for his fighters, and when he spoke to Yahoo Sports Wednesday, he immediately began to pump the fight. A McGregor-Nurmagomedov fight would have a chance to do 2 million pay-per-views under the right circumstances, and McGregor could take home upwards of $50 million for that bout.
McGregor and White haven’t spoken yet, and though White’s been publicly optimistic that McGregor will fight again in 2018, the fact there haven’t been talks says a lot.
McGregor, of course, has a legal issue yet to settle with New York as a result of his attack on a bus at UFC 223 in April. And it’s no guarantee that he’d be licensed to fight right away, particularly if the UFC tries to book him in Las Vegas, where he’s faced disciplinary action previously, or New York.
That seems to make it a long shot that he fights again this year, because a lot has to happen before he gets into the Octagon again, which he hasn’t done since Nov. 12, 2016, when he stopped Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden to win the lightweight title and become the first man in UFC history to hold two weight-class titles simultaneously.
He revealed at the postfight news conference that night that his girlfriend, Dee Devlin, was pregnant and that he didn’t want to fight during her pregnancy because she got so upset worrying about him when he fought.
His son, Conor Jr., was born on May 5, 2017, and McGregor went into training camp not long after to fight Mayweather. But with the money and endorsements he made from that bout, he set himself up so that he’d never have to fight again.
He’s a true fighter, and loves to compete like few others, and if it were up to him, he’d probably fight a couple of times a month if the UFC would allow him.
With a family, though, there are other considerations. And with the endorsement money continuing to flow, and his businesses doing well, it’s unlikely he’s going to get back into the cage simply to earn a paycheck.
If he does, it’s going to be because of the competitive juices in him are flowing and he sees a challenge that motivates him. That’s why Abdelaziz made the comments he did, because if he can get McGregor’s attention, it will help his guy land the biggest bout of his life.
Abdelaziz said that when Nurmagomedov and McGregor fight, he’d insist that Nurmagomedov be able to bring his own private security and transportation. Nurmagomedov was on the bus – laughing at McGregor, Abdelaziz says – when McGregor threw the dolly at it and shattered a window.
“Listen, this guy thinks he’s a gangster, but he’s not,” Abdelaziz told Yahoo Sports. “And I’ll tell you this: He can’t go to Russia. If he goes to Russia, Khabib would get a call and then that’s it. [McGregor’s teammate] Artem [Lobov] can’t go to Russia. … But when they fight, everyone knows what is going to happen. Khabib will take him down and beat the [expletive] out of him and talk to Dana while he’s doing it. Conor’s not going to be able to do a thing about it.”
McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, has said he’d love to see McGregor fight Nate Diaz in a rubber match. Diaz choked McGregor out in their first bout, on March 5, 2016, but McGregor came back in August that year to score a decision victory.
It, too, would generate bundles of money, as would a McGregor-Georges St-Pierre match.
Because of his stature, and the payday he commands, McGregor’s not going to accept just any bout. If we looked at the fighters on the roster now, the only ones probably in play for a bout with him would be welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and interim champion Colby Covington, Nurmagomedov, Diaz, featherweight champion Max Holloway and potentially ex-interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.
It’s not a long list, and what it tells you is that if he does come back, it’s not going to be for very long.
And while there are countless stories of fighters who made unimaginable amounts of money only to blow it all, it’s unlikely McGregor is in that boat. His manager, Audie Attar, is a shrewd and thorough businessman and has undoubtedly helped McGregor get high-level financial planning and wealth retention assistance.
Abdelaziz’s words got attention inside the MMA community, but it’s the price McGregor has to pay for the level of fame he’s reached.
Plus, he’s still young with an earning window that could extend for several more years, if he chooses to continue to compete.
It’s unlikely McGregor is hurting for money now, or ever will be again, even though he’s obviously not afraid to spend.
These kinds of nuisances will continue to pop up, though, as others try to use his fame to build themselves.
That’s been a part of the fight game for just about as long as they paid two guys to punch each other in front of a crowd.
It’s a normal part of business and nothing more.
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