Paulie Malignaggi believes that he would have gotten the better of Conor McGregor had they continued to spar in the lead up to his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.
The former two-time champion left the Irishman’s camp due to sparring pictures being leaked last week.
After their first sparring session two weeks ago, Malignaggi said he went home, jogged daily and even did some sparring rounds with an amateur boxer to keep himself sharp for his next sparring session with “The Notorious.”
However, when he arrived back in Vegas, he began to think he was being set up when McGregor’s team told him that he would be sparring 12 rounds with McGregor, which he claims is not usually expected of sparring partners.
“I land in Vegas and they tell me, ‘you’re going 12 (rounds) tomorrow’,” Malignaggi told Ariel Helwani on the latest episode of The MMA Hour.
“Now, for people who aren’t familiar with a training camp, no one is ever expected to do 12 straight (rounds). The fighter in camp does 12 straight, but when the fighter in camp does 12 straight, he alternates (sparring partners).
“Doing it like that you’re gaining two things; you have the sparring partners all at their best and, like I said, (the fighter in camp) gets uncomfortable – you have to be comfortable getting uncomfortable at times.
“By the time you get to the third (sparring partner), you’re tiring, you’re uncomfortable. And the (sparring partner) is fresh, he’s looking to beat the crap out of you, you know?”
Malignaggi admitted that he was very tired in their first eight-round sparring session and believes that McGregor thought he could easily get the better of him over a longer distance.
“In his mind, he was probably thinking, ‘Paulie had a rough time getting through eight (rounds), let’s set him up for 12 (rounds),” he said.
When the former two-time champion arrived at the gym the next day there was an audience there to watch the session, which made him feel like McGregor wanted to put on a show against him.
“I get to the gym the next day and he has all kinds of dignitaries there,” Malignaggi said. “He’s got Lorenzo Fertitta there, he’s got Dana White there, he’s got his agent there (Audie Attar), he’s got a couple of other people I don’t know there.
“Another thing checked off in my mind because usually sparring is so private I couldn’t even bring in a trainer for my corner. I’d just have his sparring partners work my corner,” he explained.
“It was so private that you had to leave your phone in a box so nobody could sneak pictures or record. It was so tight, yet he had some dignitaries come in on this day.
“Again, I was thinking to myself, this guy is going to try and stop me tonight. He’s banking on catching a guy that could barely go eight, and had a tough time doing the eight the first time. He’s brought in all these dignitaries because they can speak about how great he looks at my expense.
“I was angry, but I knew that I came ready this time.”
As Malignaggi explained it, McGregor got the better of him over the first five rounds of the second sparring session.
“He hung tough the first five rounds,” the longtime boxer said. “He came out sharper, with more of a purpose. He hung tough for the first rounds, he even landed a couple of good shots, but I was starting to take over.
“My work was more consistent. My style was more consistent. My counter punching was sharper. My jab was sharper. There was just more consistency on my part.”
The retired boxer claimed that McGregor had improved from their first session, but so had he.
“Here’s the thing, people ask me did he get better from the first to the second time — he did,” Malignaggi said. “The thing is, this is still something new to him, so the increments at which he is growing at are still smaller.
“I’ve done this for 20 years of my life, so from one sparring session to another to another, the rate at which I progress is a lot faster because the muscle memory comes back. The reaction and timing starts to come back at a faster and faster rate.
“Even if he got better from the first sparring, I got way better from the first sparring. And on the third and fourth one, I would’ve got better and better. By the end of camp, this guy would’ve understood after two sparring (sessions), that his ass was going to get beat for the rest of camp.”
When the sparring session reached the midway point, Malignaggi believes he came into the ascendency.
“From about six rounds on, he became very hittable,” the former champ said. “So much more hittable that I was putting more weight on my shots and sitting down more on my shots, and of course, the body shots started to affect him more and more.
“Of course, I’m talking the whole time, because the first time he made sure to talk the whole time. Now I’m talking more and more and I’m letting him know, ‘you can’t hang, these body shots feel good, right?’
“In MMA the body shots aren’t the same as in boxing in that there is consistency to body shots in boxing. There is a debilitating breakdown from the body shots in boxing. Little by little you feel the air come out of you with fatigue.
“Fatigue is always hard because you don’t have enough snap in your shots any more. You can’t throw as often as you want to.”
Malignaggi claimed that his frequent body attacks had a visible affect on the UFC’s lightweight champion.
“[McGregor] stopped talking because he wanted to save as much energy as he could,” he said. “He stopped throwing as many punches. He caught some nice ones for the first five rounds. The nice ones he caught were the whole time when I was talking.
“After seven (rounds), which was one of his worst rounds, he sits there and he tells me, ‘7-0 to me’.
“I remember walking back to my corner and yelling back at him, I said, ‘whatever school you went to they didn’t teach you how to count!’
“I was feeling so good that I start yelling at Dana White ringside. I started saying, This is the bitch you brought me here?’ I said, ‘24 hours ago I was on a flight’. Then I lied a bit, I said, ‘Last week I didn’t do anything’ — I did workout that week, but of course I wanted to pump myself up.
“I knew that Conor heard me across the ring. Dana didn’t acknowledge it with any kind of emotion, he didn’t say anything, but he was looking at me when I was saying it.”
Malignaggi stated that he was pushed down in the eighth, ninth or tenth round — the moment that was caught in the infamous leaked photograph — and that the incident occurred during one of McGregor’s “worst moments”.
“The funny thing about the push down was this — it was during one of his worst moments,” Malignaggi said.
“He pushed me down on the floor to try and catch a break and the instant I went down I got back up. I remember when I was down I continued to trash talk. I said, ‘Buddy, you need a break?’ because Cortez had to wipe off my gloves.
“I started to take it to him right after that. I told him, ‘you don’t get no breaks here’, and I started to hit him with more body shots. I said, ‘take those, they don’t feel good’ and I could hear him whimper off the body shots, too.”
Malignaggi reported that McGregor rallied in the final two rounds and landed some good shots. When the sparring session had finished, he thought he had made peace with the UFC champion.
“After that sparring, I thought we had buried the hatchet,” he said.
“We took a picture in the ring. Everybody gave us a hand. We just did 12 hard rounds, it didn’t matter who got the better of it, there is a respect thing after you spend 36 minutes in a ring with a guy and you’re trying to beat the s**t out of each other.
“In the dressing room I passed by Conor and he said ‘good work’ and I said ‘yeah, good work Conor.’ I thought we had buried the hatchet and I was thinking that maybe I didn’t need to be so on-edge in the camp anymore. I was hoping that because I had came with those intentions.”
It was when Malignaggi specifically asked McGregor about not posting pictures of their sparring sessions that he claims he knew that the MMA superstar was ‘a d**khead’.
“Then I said, ‘Conor, do me a favor, bro. No more of these crazy pictures,’” Malignaggi said. “The week before, when I was working at Broner/Garcia, the media was there for the fight week because that was a big fight in boxing. All everybody wanted to know about was these pictures.
“I told Conor that it becomes very hard for me to not disclose the NDA that I have when you’re putting up pictures of me.
“I am not one of the other sparring partners. Nobody knows who the other sparring partners are. Everyone knows who I am. When you put up a picture of me in sparring, the media rush comes to me and I have to answer questions that I don’t want to deal with.
“I have to try and make you look good. I want you to look good. I want to say things that make you look good. I want to promote you and help you out, but not at my expense.
“I also have to try and figure how to do it without making myself look bad now because you’re putting out me in compromising positions with these pictures.
“I had this conversation with Conor after the second sparring in the dressing room and this is probably when I realized what a dickhead this guy is because at that moment we had just done 12 hard rounds and there’s a respect that I’m feeling, at least.”
McGregor’s reaction did not make him confident that pictures would not surface of the session.
“He looks at me, and I’m expecting, ‘you’re right, Paulie – you got it, let’s just keep this good work going.’
“Instead, he looks at me and he gives me this smirk, laughs at me and he starts walking away from me.
“He gives me his back, he’s walking away towards the showers and he’s like, ‘Ha ha, I don’t know Paulie. We got some good ones in those last two rounds. I don’t know about that.’
“At this stage, I’m waiting for Ashton Kutcher to walk into the dressing rooms and tell me I got Punk’d. I thought it was a joke. I thought there was no way this guy is that much of an a**hole.”