Paulie Malignaggi thought he and Conor McGregor had buried the hatchet after their well-publicized second sparring session, but two days later he left the camp after photographs of their session were leaked.
McGregor quipping about having “some good ones (photographs)” after the retired boxer specifically asked him not to post pictures of their sparring sessions made him slightly uneasy.
The day after the spar, Malignaggi claimed that McGregor sent him a direct message on Twitter with both of the pictures that would later be at the forefront of the controversy, without any text to accompany them.
As far as Malignaggi was concerned, the UFC fighter was showing him the pictures as a way of conveying that he would not post them, but just as a way of letting him know he had them.
“I just wrote back, ‘Ha ha, too bad it doesn’t count as a knockdown, a punch has to get thrown’. I said, ‘It was a good push, though’, you know, kind of laughing,” he told Ariel Helwani on the latest episode of The MMA Hour.
“Then I put something stupid in there like ‘Wow, you’re up early’, because it was 7:30 in the morning.”
Two days later, all of the sparring partners were told to meet at the UFC Performance Institute. However, they were not told who would be used for sparring. Malignaggi claims he was warming up when McGregor and his team arrived and announced that the Irishman would not be sparring.
“Conor and his team walk in and they tell us, ‘Listen, Conor is not going to box today’ – and again the check mark goes off in my mind,” said Malignaggi, who suggested that he felt like the camp was setting him up.
“In my mind, I was thinking that he probably should spar, even if it was just a few rounds to keep his eye sharp. It’s not up for me to decide that, it’s up to them to decide that, they run their own camp.
“I was just going to work the bag. I don’t know if you’ve been to the UFC (Performance Institute), but the first floor is positioning stuff and rehab stuff, for cryotherapy with treadmills and the ropes for conditioning and what not. On the second floor, you’ve got the cage, the ring, the bag… you know, the combat sports part of the facility.”
When Malignaggi tried to begin his workout, he was told to go to a different floor so he would not be able to see McGregor’s pad work.
“So, I take my gloves out of my bag and I say to one of the trainers, ‘Hey, can you glove me up?’ And he says, ‘No, no, no… you guys have to go downstairs. (Conor) has to work the pads today, and he has to work on some shots that we want him to hit you guys with. We don’t want you guys to see.’
“(That) was a little bit too analytical for me, but I get it, some guys are a little bit more anal with that kind of stuff. Me? I always used to hit the pads in front of my sparring partners, I don’t care, but you know what, I can give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Although he observed their request and went to another floor, Malignaggi admitted that he became very frustrated at that point.
“Now all the little things that weren’t bothering me came to the forefront,” he said.
“The crack house (what Malignaggi refers to McGregor’s sparring partners’ accommodation), taking me off the plane to do 12 rounds in front of his personal audience, me not being able to have a trainer in camp — all this stuff is bothering me more.”
Malignaggi began to talk to the other sparring partners about how badly they were being treated but noticed that something was odd when he finished his session and looked at his phone.
“I finished my workout and I went into the showers. I take my stuff out of my bag and my phone is buzzing like crazy, it’s like it’s on fire… it’s buzzing like crazy like it’s about to blow up,” Malignaggi remembered.
“I checked my phone like, ‘What is going on here?’ I get it and I check it, I see a bunch of text messages and a bunch of tweets, I’m like ‘what’s going on over here’.
“Then suddenly I realize, everything had been released… everything. And the reaction was, Paulie Malignaggi got knocked down. So I’m like, ‘Wow, you really released this shit.’”
At that point, Malignaggi knew he had to leave the camp.
“I’m fighting an uphill battle here. Even if I sparred him for the rest of his camp and I start to beat on him more and more and more, he’s always going to have these photographers there doing his will.
“In ten or twelve rounds, he’s always going to get a few shots in and those are going to be the ones he’s going to post. He’s always going to try and get ahead at my expense and not with me.
“I said, ‘this guy is just a piece of s**t, I can’t deal with this. His team is a bunch of s**t cheerleaders. They’re not improving, they’re not getting any better. They’re telling him he’s doing good even when they’re not.
“I don’t need to be around these people, it’s not like they brought me in for anything tactical like everybody thought they would. They’re doing the tactical stuff, and all the tactical stuff is, is cheerleading,” he said.