By: Sean Crose
In what should come as a surprise to no one, former two time boxing titlist Paulie Malignaggi is at odds with the Conor McGregor camp. McGregor, who is in training for an extremely lucrative novelty boxing match with retired pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather, had brought on Malignaggi as a sparing partner – at least ostensibly. Now, however, it appears to Malignaggi at least that McGregor wanted to “exploit” the popular fighter/television announcer for his own aggrandizement. Pictures have emerged online of McGregor seemingly getting the better of Malignaggi in the ring, pictures which Malignaggi claims tell a false tale.
“I pretty much talked s–t that whole sparring session while I beat the breaks off him,” Malignaggi tweeted Friday morning. “The push down was his frustration from it.” The “push down” Malignaggi refers to can be interpreted in one of the online photos as a knockdown on the part of McGregor. For in the picture, it’s Malignaggi on the canvas while McGregor is on his feet. Sure enough, Malignaggi has challenged the UFC, the mixed martial arts league which McGregor is a part of, to publish video of an entire twelve round sparing session the two men had (presumably the session where the pictures emerged from). “The video exists UNEDITED of rounds 1 through 12 Tuesday night,” Malignaggi tweeted, “let the fans see.”
That, frankly, is not likely to happen, at least not until after the fight between McGregor and Mayweather goes down on August 26th. In the meantime, Malignaggi has left the McGregor camp – and clearly not on good terms. “Hate to say it,” Malignaggi tweeted, “but it’s clear when I look back at my time there that there was an agenda from the start, too many clues.” If Malignaggi was, in fact, set up in all of this, it comes to some as no surprise. The popularity of McGregor rests largely on his ability to appear as a less than respectful loud mouth. His abrasive – some would say antisocial – antics are as much a part of the man’s reputation as are his skills in the octagon, the aptly named fenced in area where most MMA bouts are held.
Oddly enough, abrasiveness is a major selling point in what many believe is more a pop culture event than a legitimate sporting contest. Mayweather has mellowed in recent years, but he was – and remains – a household name in part by engaging in obnoxious, over the top rhetoric. It’s a tactic McGregor has taken hold of in his own combat sport and run with – to enormous success. Now both men may well earn nine figures a piece for their showdown, which many feel will not be competitive, as McGregor has never once engaged in a professional boxing match. Both the Mayweather and McGregor camps, however, have been trying to sell the public on McGregor’s chances in the ring later this month.
Not that the public needs to be sold. McGregor has an enormous, nearly cult-like following in awe of his abilities, whether those abilities are merely perceived or are, in fact, real. It’s arguable that most everyone else interested in the bout, however, views it more as a spectacle than as a sporting contest or are simply unaware of the differences between a boxing match and a mixed martial arts contest. In short, Malignaggi’s public airing of his grievances may only add to hype.