The sparring — physical and verbal — between Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi has made as many headlines as anything leading into McGregor’s boxing match against Floyd Mayweather on Aug. 26.
Despite that, footage from the two sparring sessions at the UFC Performance Institute have not been used by Showtime as part of its “All Access” series leading into the megafight in Las Vegas.
On Tuesday, UFC president Dana White said Showtime has plenty of video, but is choosing not to air it, because executives don’t want Malignaggi to look bad. Malignaggi is on the broadcast team for Mayweather vs. McGregor.
Showtime Sports and Event Programming vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza told Sporting News in an interview published Wednesday that White was not correct in his assessment.
"Dana’s misinformed here because we were dealing directly with Conor’s team on this," Espinoza said. "We did not receive, as Dana said, a ton of footage. We received a few short clips. Roughly a minute total which were provided by the Conor camp. We reviewed them and were very interested in using them and including them in ‘All Access.’
"But it was a series of sort of spliced-together McGregor highlights, eight or nine seconds each. We didn’t want to use the whole thing. It was sort of repetitive. We were told if we didn’t use the whole segment as they edited it then we couldn’t use it at all. So in the end, Conor’s camp withheld permission for us to use it. Otherwise we definitely wanted to use it. There was no intent to protect Paulie. We just wanted to cut some of the clips because it was pretty redundant, repetitive stuff."
White released two videos of the second sparring session last Friday on his social media. One shows McGregor landing a hard left hand that snaps Malignaggi’s head back. The other is much more famous. It shows McGregor seemingly dropping Malignaggi with a combination. Malignaggi has said it was not a knockdown, but a case of him losing his balance because McGregor was holding his head down.
Either way, there appears to remain some tension between the UFC and Showtime, which first bubbled up last month during the MayMac World Tour over McGregor’s microphone being shut off on stage and the format of the shows. McGregor called Espinoza a “weasel.”
The UFC is now an official co-promoter of Mayweather vs. McGregor, along with Mayweather Promotions and TGB Promotions. White said he doesn’t want to get into a back and forth with Showtime.
“Last thing I want to do is get into a beef with Showtime or any of that stuff, but we gave them a ton of the footage of the sparring and they denied it, because they didn’t want to make Paulie look bad,” White said. “They didn’t show any of it. They had a ton of the sparring footage and they wanted to use zero.”