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Paulie Malignaggi confirms he’ll join Conor McGregor starting this week for Floyd Mayweather camp

Despite some initial confusion, it appears that Paulie Malignaggi will indeed play a role in Conor McGregor’s training camp ahead of the Irishman’s mega-fight against Floyd Mayweather on Aug. 26.

Malignaggi, a retired ex-champion boxer and current commentator for Showtime, revealed Monday on The MMA Hour he is slated to fly out to Las Vegas on Wednesday to join Team McGregor. The 36-year-old Malignaggi expects to play the role of sparring partner for McGregor, helping the UFC lightweight champion to prepare for his much-anticipated professional boxing debut against Mayweather.

“I guess it’s down to how long they need me to work,” Malignaggi said Monday on The MMA Hour. “We’ve discussed a couple potential things, but I don’t know (how long I’ll be out there), it’ll depend on them. I’ve always been in camp that’s been my training camp. I’ve never been in somebody else’s training camp. Even when I was a prospect and I helped champions get ready for their fights, it was mostly at home where I came up in Gleason’s Gym in New York, where there’s so many champions training there. A lot of times, I sparred with them a lot during their training camps in Gleason’s, but I was never a guy who was brought into camp as a sparring partner where I had to leave my house, where I had to leave home.

“This is the first time that ever happened to me, so in my professional experience when I used to run my own training camps, I’d make all the decisions. I’d meet with my team and we’d make all the decisions as far as how long sparring partners should stay, when a sparring partner should go, and all this other stuff. So, if I’m going by the way that I look at things, all those decisions are going to be up to them — how long they want to keep me around for, how long they don’t want to keep me around for, and so on and so forth. I’m just there to accommodate as best as I can.”

Malignaggi will join a team already led by McGregor’s SBG Ireland coaches, John Kavangh and Owen Roddy, and Malignaggi made it clear that his purpose will only be to serve as a sparring partner, rather than a trainer or coach in any regard.

“If I’m going to give a couple of technical tidbits, maybe, maybe not, but I definitely won’t come talking about training (McGregor),” Malignaggi said. “I think his team has that foundation down pat and they’re going to be doing the training, and they’re going to be in charge of all that. But of course, I’ll be going there to spar, and if I see anything and we’re on good terms, of course I’ll share my views on some things.”

The news comes just days after the conclusion of the Mayweather-McGregor world tour, an unprecedented and ultimately controversial four-day, three-country excursion that saw McGregor and Mayweather promote their fight with grandiose press stops in Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, and London. Malignaggi covered the first three legs of the world tour for Showtime, and he found himself inserted into the storyline early when McGregor responded heatedly to a question about bringing Malignaggi into his camp.

McGregor said that Malignaggi “talked a lot of sh*t” and would have to “answer to what he’s been saying” by having a “knock in the gym.” The Irishman’s ire initially made Malignaggi “a little bit confused, as maybe they changed their mind” about bringing Malignaggi into camp, but after having a few follow-up talks after the tour’s conclusion, Malignaggi understands the situation better and knows exactly what McGregor was referring to.

“When Conor got his boxing license, all the boxers looked at it like, ‘wow, this is a big paycheck here, and it’s a guy who’s probably a little bit (more) limited than your basic world-class boxer,’ so everybody’s trying to get in there,” Malignaggi said. “So me, using my trash-talking ability that I have, me knowing that I’m one of the better known fighters in the business, I kind of put myself at the forefront. I tried to talk a little bit of trash and get under his skin and try to see if he would take the bait. So the trash talk was done about six months ago, I was looking to get the fight.

“I’ve since lost my last fight and retired, so that’s actually out the window. But I think that basically what they’re looking at and what he’s talking about is probably the trash talking way back then, and yeah, we’re going to have a knock in the gym. But listen, from a fighter’s perspective, you have in a knock in the gym anyway. Even if you’re best friends with the guy you’re sparring, you’re still going to have a knock in there. That’s just the way sparring goes, especially at a world-class championship level in the gym at sparring. I’ve never been a part of a training camp where sparring was light.

“You have to raise your intensity level to a very high level, because on fight night, you need to be able to reach down and get that intensity level there, and you need to be familiar with that intensity level,” Malignaggi continued. “You can’t just show up on fight night and reach intensity levels you’re not used to getting to. So you get there in sparring a few times a week, and little bit little, your mind and your body acclimate to that kind of intensity, that level of intensity, so you don’t have to really dig deep to reach it.

“So, the having a knock in the gym part, it’s good for the media to jump on, it’s good for fans to jump on to give them something to talk about, but the reality of it all, you’re going to have a knock in the gym regardless. That’s just the way it is.”

Malignaggi is expected to serve as one of the lead analysts and commentators for Showtime on Aug. 26, so the opportunity to train with McGregor will provide him a more nuanced insight into the UFC champion once fight week rolls around. And even though a few bad feelings may be lingering on McGregor’s side, Malignaggi isn’t worried about joining a SBG Ireland squad that some may consider to be hostile territory.

“I’m not getting jumped in there, so no, I never feel like I’m in hostile territory or nothing because I’m very confident in my abilities inside the ring,” Malignaggi said. “I never feel like I’m going in there, ‘and oh my goodness, I have to spar so and so.’ I’ve sparred so many good fighters through so many years, so it’s almost second nature to me, especially sparring.

“Fight night is one thing, but especially sparring; it’s very intense, but at the same time, it’s nothing I haven’t done before, thousands of thousands of rounds in my life. I’m confident about what I can do in there and I’m sure Conor is confident about what he can do in there, and yeah, we’ll probably have a knock. We’ll have a knock or even two or three. But I’m sure it’ll be all good, and if I can help out and do my part in the camp, then I’ll be happy.”

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