In the months leading up to Conor McGregor’s all-out circus of a boxing match with all-time great Floyd Mayweather on August 26, most of the hype actually centered on McGregor’s beef with former boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi, who was brought in to spar with the UFC champion.
The prideful competitors, who had a bit of pre-installed beef already, saw their relationship implode in relatively short order when a media frenzy erupted over photos where McGregor allegedly knocked Malignaggi down in sparring. The boxer claimed the photos had been spun to favor McGregor, and that the Irishman’s camp had given him every disadvantage possible to make their fighter look good, including how they supposedly rushed him to the ring right after several consecutive hours of travel.
UFC president Dana White eventually released a very brief video of the footage, and it appeared that McGregor at least knocked the former champion down, even if he did seem to slightly push him in what became the center of a hotbed of heated discussion. Most thought Malignaggi was simply trying to get one last huge payday against McGregor, and no one could blame them as their alleged rivalry spilled over into a heated confrontation at the Mayweather vs. McGregor arrivals.
“The Money Fight” happened after a whirlwind summer of exhausting promotion, and Mayweather beat McGregor by tenth-round stoppage. Most of the talk surrounding “The Notorious” then shifted to his potential trilogy match with Nate Diaz in the UFC, but McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh recently unveiled that his student was aiming for a bout with Malignaggi at the launch of the Original Penguin AW17 collection in Dublin (via MMA Fighting) yesterday.
However, he wanted it in a different venue:
“Conor wanted that. He said to me, ‘Let’s get him in the Octagon’, and I said that there was no way that he would fight in MMA. You’ve got to be able to prove yourself in the arena. When Conor wanted a boxing license they could look at the Diaz 2 fight where there was more or less 25 minutes of boxing. Why would Paulie go to MMA? He’d never go to MMA.
“Now, Conor could tweet now and say ‘I’m fighting Paulie Malignaggi’, and I guess I would be wrong then.”
The fight would obviously bring a rivalry-fueled narrative, but with McGregor one of the hottest names in combat sports right now, there still wasn’t a whole lot of reasons for him to fight a retired boxer other than the perceived dollar amount involved.
Kavanagh revealed why McGregor did want to fight Malignaggi, however, naming the boxer’s supposed (and repeated) disrespect of the superstar’s skills during a time he was still working with their team:
“It wasn’t just general stuff explaining how he was part of the camp. He had to go back to New York to do some promotion for the Andre Ward fight, and straightaway he was disrespecting (McGregor’s) power. He was saying this and that, and I was thinking, ‘What are you doing, you have to come back here and spar Conor in seven days?’”
“This guy is a former world champion, he should know that you should keep your mouth shut until the fight is over – then write a book, then do fifty interviews. That would have been no problem, we would have no issue with that. But you can’t go the next day and the day after that and the day after that, and start giving away ideas we have.
“That’s what threw me off, he wasn’t acting like a professional.”