Conor McGregor, Mark Ingram And Rocket League: This Week’s Most Interesting Sports Business Stories – Forbes

In this week’s SportsMoney Playbook: Conor McGregor and the world’s highest-paid athletes, a secret weapon in Nascar and MLS’s latest athlete investor. Plus: why a Staten Island boxing legend has fallen in love with MMA.


NFL running back Mark Ingram is buying a 1% stake in D.C. United, joining a list of pro athletes who have invested in MLS clubs that includes Russell WestbrookNomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm. “I just believe in the growth of soccer,” Ingram tells us.

The U.S. women’s national team is set to open Q2 StadiumAustin FC‘s $260 million new home, which boasts a fan-centric experience tailored to the city itself.

Even with clubs’ finances getting some help with the return of fans to stadiums, this summer’s transfer window could be a quiet one in Europe; the head of one of the world’s largest soccer agencies predicts the market is unlikely to return to normal until 2023.

Auto Racing

An innovative hydration system has given Ricky Stenhouse Jr. an in-race competitive advantage for the last three years. Now, it’s available to all Nascar drivers.

Nascar is working with Rocket League to prominently feature nine drivers in the popular video game, with Austin Dillon promoting the launch on Twitch—and showing that the series’ leadership is willing to experiment to attract a younger and more engaged audience.

College Sports

As the first college sports organization to pass name, image and likeness legislation, the NAIA has become a testing ground for how these policies could be enacted at the NCAA level. The early conclusions: Athletes can earn hundreds on social media, and a “one-stop” deals platform has an early-mover advantage.

Combat Sports

Claressa Shields has won two Olympic gold medals and championships in three divisions, yet she doesn’t receive anywhere near the compensation or the marketing of her male counterparts in boxing. She tells us about the inequality of the sport and why she’s jumped to MMA, with her Professional Fighters League debut set for tonight.


Esports organization Dignitas struck a naming rights deal with a bank and is renaming both of its League of Legends teams.

Sports Business

Beryllium, a fantasy sports and trading platform, secured $3 million in a pre-Series A funding round.

Baylor University is putting its name on a Topgolf location in Texas, flipping traditional naming rights deals on their head.

Featured Story

The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2021

Little about the past year in sports felt normal for the world’s elite athletes, and the surprises extended from the field to their bank accounts. Despite the pandemic, the cutoff to rank among the 50 highest-paid athletes in the world rose from $28.5 million last year to $34 million, the highest threshold ever, with 15 newcomers cracking the list. Check out who landed where on this year’s ranking.

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Upon Further Review

“It’s been a long time coming,” Conor McGregor told us after ascending to No. 1 on our annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes by selling his majority stake in whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve for $150 million. He’s not the first athlete to dive into the liquor industry. Two years ago, Michael Jordan partnered with four other NBA owners to launch a brand of premium tequila that retails for $1,600 per bottle. Read more about MJ’s Cincoro tequila.

The Last Word

“I don’t know jack-diddly-squat about jiu-jitsu.” Teddy Atlas

Teddy Atlas is the ultimate boxing diehard—he’s trained 18 world champions and lives by the code “boxing is life.” But lately, despite not knowing too much about it, the 64-year-old Staten Islander has found himself interested in a new sport: the UFC. “They’re both fighting; they’re just different forms,” he tells us. Read more about Atlas’ growing interest in MMA.

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