There are people who, rather than opening the doors that life offers, tear them down. Who enter without knocking. With drive and an innate self-esteem. One of these described beings is Conor McGregor, the mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar who, in just a decade, has spent of being a humble plumber who lived on state aid in Ireland to lead the Forbes list as the highest paid athlete in the world, ahead of Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
The truth is that mixed martial arts are, since the beginning of this century, the sport that has experienced the most growth, especially in recent years. Much of the blame is on the Irish fighter, become a social phenomenon thanks to his ability to knock out his rivals and his inexhaustible charisma, dragging a country that cannot do enough for him. During the twelve-month period that ended on May 1, 2021, McGregor made a whopping $ 180 million, a figure that includes $ 158 million in sponsorships and the sale of the majority stake of its whiskey brand, Proper Twelve, according to Forbes.
To put this fighter’s feat in context, it must be taken into account that he is ranked above sports icons such as Leo Messi (130 million dollars), Cristiano Ronaldo (120), the ‘quarterback’ Dak Presscott (107 , 5) or NBA star LeBron James (96.5) or LeBron James. In fact, the organizing entity of this classification explained that its earnings figures in the field include all the prizes, salaries and bonuses obtained during the aforementioned twelve-month period, while the earnings outside the field respond to an estimate of the agreements of sponsorship, appearance fees and license income.
But how is it possible that in less than ten years a plumber will become the superstar of world sport? Today, the 33-year-old McGregor is still a physical marvel within his 175cm, but he wasn’t always that way. In his teenage years, he was a small and thin guy, the perfect target for bullies at the high school where he studied, in a modest Dublin neighborhood. One day he decided that this school abuse had an expiration date and he entered a gymnasium to learn mixed martial arts as a method of self-defense and, above all, as a form of mental escape from the continuous teasing of his classmates. A flame had just been lit.
McGregor’s family was never luxurious. The need for money was pressing. For this reason, the Irish fighter left his studies and began to learn the trade from his father: plumbing. He spent years working hard, fixing the pipes, the downspouts or whatever task he played that day. But he, deep down, knew that his courses must be different. He kept training. Fight after fight. With conviction. “My dream was always to be the world champion of mixed martial arts,” he has said on occasion. In anonymity a star was being forged, while He was living with the financial support of his girlfriend by then and current woman, Dee Devlin, and the aid she received from the Irish State.
At age 20, he made his professional MMA debut against a compatriot of his, Gary Morris, whom he knocked out in the second round. The adventure to the top began and there was no way to give up the attempt. Thus the fights followed one another one after another, getting to proclaim champion in two different divisions of Cage Warriors, the British league par excellence. And that’s how he got to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where thanks to his ability to speak and sell himself and, of course, to crush his rivals with his hands, he managed to take over the featherweight and lightweight titles simultaneously.
Already at that stage in the UFC, the zeros of his checking accounts soared. Hundreds of sponsors met the Irish superstar. Gone are those moments of hardship where the accounts did not reach him to seriously carry a nutrition typical of elite athletes. In addition, to take advantage of his rising image, McGregor created with his manager Audie Attar his own brand of whiskey, now sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Without going any further, the Irishman’s business continues to rise, so it would not be surprising that during the next few years he continues to take the top positions. Their more than 42 million followers on Instagram they are a constant factory of bills that the UFC fighter knows perfectly well how to capitalize on.