2020 was a bad year for sports with most leagues and athletes facing shut downs and pay cuts due to the ongoing pandemic that is ravaging the globe. Still, for the cream of the crop in sports. it was not as bad at least in terms of the financial ramifications.

Forbes released the list of top earning athletes in 2020, and is are a record number of four athletes who earned $100 million (£71 million) or more in the last 12 months. And at the top of the list – for the first time ever – was UFC legend Conor McGregor, who took home $180 million (£128 million).

The Irishman made just $22 million (£15.6) fighting inside the octagon in 2020, and it was from a fight he lost to Dustin Poirier at UFC 257. McGregor's income came from outside ventures, various endorsement deals and a big chunk was from the sale of his majority stake in his whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve.

Joining the $100 million club alongside the former two-division UFC champion were football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo along with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. The Barcelona star was second on the list followed by his long-time rival Ronaldo, while the NFL quarterback rounded out the top four.

NBA star LeBron James was close to joining the elite list with Los Angeles Lakers cager taking home $96.5 million, which was a record when it came to NBA players. He was not the only player from the NBA with Kevin Durant coming in at 10th with earnings of $75 million.

The sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth places on the Forbes list were occupied by Brazilian football star Neymar, Swiss maestro Roger Federer, Formula 1 ace Lewis Hamilton and seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady respectively.

Despite 2020 being a bad year for sports owing to the lack of fans in the stadiums and multiple cancellations, there were records that were broken. This year's top 10 also made a combined $512 million off the field, crushing the previous record of $407.5 million in 2020.

Forbes' on-the-field earnings figures include all prize money, salaries and bonuses earned between May 1, 2020, and May 1, 2021.

Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor's last foray in the octagon was his win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. Getty