McGregor moves up ESPN’s flawed most popular athletes list

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

To find the 100 most famous athletes in the world, ESPN started with 600 of the biggest names in sports, drawn from 68 countries. Their Sports Analytics Group then ranked the athletes based on a proprietary formula that took into account three fame factors:
•1. Search Score – Measures how often a name is searched, using Cristiano Ronaldo’s score of 100 as a baseline;
•2. Endorsement Value – Sources ranged from Forbes to ESPN contributors such as Darren Rovell;
•Social Media Followers – As not all athletes are on every platform, ESPN used only the number from their most popular account.

Six boxers made the list, and only one mixed martial arts fighter – Conor McGregor, who came in at #18, four sports behind Floyd Mayweather Jr.

McGregor has seen a steady rise, from #37 in 2016, to #25 in 2017, to #18 this year. Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey was #23 in 2016, and #17 in 2017; she did not appear in 2018. Anderson Silva was #39 in 2017, and did not appear in 2018. That is it for MMA fighter appearances on the ESPN World Fame 100.


1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Soccer • Portugal
Search Score 100
Endorsements $40m
Social Following 121.7m

2. LeBron James
Basketball • United States
Search Score 63
Endorsements $55m
Social Following 40.8m

3. Lionel Messi
Soccer • Argentina
Search Score 134
Endorsements $25m
Social Following 88.1m

4. Neymar
Soccer • Brazil
Search Score 179
Endorsements $24m
Social Following 90.2m

5. Roger Federer
Tennis • Switzerland
Search Score 92
Endorsements $40m
Social Following 14.6m

6. Tiger Woods
Golf • United States
Search Score 88
Endorsements $45m
Social Following 6.3m

7. Kevin Durant
Basketball • United States
Search Score 45
Endorsements $36m
Social Following 17.5m

8. Rafael Nadal
Tennis • Spain
Search Score 61
Endorsements $33m
Social Following 15.5m

9. Stephen Curry
Basketball • United States
Search Score 38
Endorsements $35m
Social Following 19.4m

10. Phil Mickelson
Golf • United States
Search Score 3
Endorsements $50m
Social Following 0

11 Virat Kohli • Cricket • India

12. Serena Williams • Tennis • United States

13. Novak Djokovic •Tennis • Serbia

14. Floyd Mayweather
Boxing • United States
Search Score 196
Endorsements $15m
Social Following 20.1m

15. Rory McIlroy • Golf • Ireland

16. Jordan Spieth • Golf • United States

17. Sun Yang • Swimming • China

18. Conor McGregor
MMA • Ireland
Search Score 172
Endorsements $9m
Social Following 22.6m

19. Gareth Bale • Soccer • Wales

19. MS Dhoni • Cricket • India

21. Maria Sharapova • Tennis • Russia

22. Mesut Özil • Soccer • Germany

23. James Rodríguez • Soccer • Colombia

24. James Harden • Basketball • United States

25. Zlatan Ibrahimović • Soccer • Sweden

Soccer, soccer, cricket, soccer, blah be blah

38. Tom Brady • American Football • United States

Soccer, soccer, soccer

46. Anthony Joshua • Boxing • England

Soccer, Badminton, Basketball, blah blah blah

58. Canelo Alvarez • Boxing • Mexico

Soccer, American Football

61. Gennady Golovkin • Boxing • Kazakhstan

63. Manny Pacquiao • Boxing • Philippines

Tennis, Soccer, Formula One, Golf, Soccer soccer soccer, Nose Picking, Cricket

74. Wladimir Klitschko • Boxing • Ukraine

Soccer, Table Tennis, Cricket, Soccer soccer. Table Tennis, Cricket, Swimming, Basketball, Skiing

99. AB de Villiers • Cricket • South Africa
100. Sania Mirza • Tennis • India

The scoring method is grossly flawed, combining as it does search frequency which is a reasonably accurate number, with the value of endorsements which is a guesstimate, with the flawed social network measure of using only one.

Both Mayweather and McGregor had more or less double the social following and double the search score of #5 Roger Federer and #6 Tiger Woods, but fell short far shorter in the endorsement guesstimate, which would indicate someone is screwing up somewhere.