Paulie Malignaggi doesn’t blame Conor McGregor for not wanting to fight him. In his eyes, “The Notorious” is just making a smart business decision.
Even though Malignaggi made the decision two years ago to walk away from boxing, a sport that McGregor has only competed in once, somehow the two personalities have found themselves embroiled in a long-running feud dating back to an infamous 2017 sparring session.
Malignaggi had been brought in by the McGregor camp to prepare the then-UFC lightweight champion for a highly-publicized crossover bout in August 2017 against boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. When video and photos of the Malignaggi-McGregor spar were released, the images suggested that McGregor had knocked Malignaggi down, sparking a seemingly endless and ultimately inconclusive debate about just how well McGregor fared against the former WBA and IBF boxing champion.
That led to much speculation that Malignaggi could meet McGregor in the ring someday (McGregor’s boxing match with Mayweather ended in him suffering a 10th-round loss via TKO), but much of that talk fizzled as McGregor eventually returned to MMA to battle rival Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Now, it’s Malignaggi who is crossing over into another sport, recently signing with upcoming promotion Bare Knuckle FC. The 38-year-old has already been tied to a possible bout with McGregor’s teammate and close friend Artem Lobov (who fights fellow former UFC fighter Jason Knight at BKFC 5 this Saturday) and he was asked on The MMA Hour if he saw the bout as a possible bridge to someday getting that McGregor fight.
Malignaggi believes that BKFC is one of many promotions that would love to book that fight, but that McGregor’s fear of defeat — and what he would stand to lose if it occurred against Malignaggi — is one of the main reasons it will never happen.
“The only guy that doesn’t want to make Malignaggi-McGregor is McGregor and anybody directly involved with him because they understand the game is over once that fight happens,” Malignaggi told host Luke Thomas. “The show, the game, the flaunting, everything’s over. Because once I beat the shit out of you after all the past we’ve had and all the lies you’ve told, you’re done, you’re history. Nobody will ever want to remember you again. So you can’t have that. Not even his Proper whiskey would sell anymore.”
According to Malignaggi, a bout between makes a lot of practical sense. While its unclear when or if McGregor plans to compete again given that he recently announced a retirement and is also currently under investigation in his native Ireland for sexual assault, his brief dalliance with boxing saw him called out by boxing luminaries like Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez.
Malignaggi scoffed at the notion of McGregor getting either of those fights and outside of a Mayweather rematch, he sees himself as the opponent that would draw the most mainstream interest. But he reiterated that McGregor won’t do it and accused him of being choosy with his opponents.
Mayweather is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport and Nurmagomedov — who submitted McGregor at UFC 229 last October — is currently considered to be among the top pound-for-pound fighters in all of MMA, so Malignaggi says that the risk of losing to them was negligible compared to what was gained.
He doesn’t expect McGregor to take that same risk for him.
“But with Paulie Malignaggi, the perception is you knocked him down,” Malignaggi said. “The perception is you beat him up. Now you’re going to wind up in a fight with him and he’s going to beat the f*ck out of you all over the place. And he’s going to make you look stupid doing it. Conor knows. Conor sparred me. I don’t just beat the shit out of you, now I’m going to talk shit. I’m gonna embarrass you. I’m gonna emasculate you while I’m doing it. And you’re not gonna like it. It’s not just gonna be a loss, it’s gonna be an embarrassment.
“People will not forgive you for the loss, not just because of the embarrassment of it, but because you lied to them. Your fans will forgive you if they’re true fans, for losing. They will not forgive you for lying to them. And because of the lie, they would never forgive him. So no matter for all the money in the world, Conor cannot fight me.”
Malignaggi admitted that at first, the McGregor drama annoyed him and he questioned why he even bothered engaging in the increasingly public spat. However, he also acknowledged that it helped him in his negotiations with BKFC.
One aspect of his feud with McGregor that he can’t wrap his head around is how much was made of a few frozen moments from a sparring session that he doesn’t even hold in much regard.
“That 12 rounds, he makes like it was this intense fight and we were fighting,” Malignaggi said. “That was one of the dullest 12-round sparring sessions I ever had. The reason it was intense is because there was a lot of shit talking and he had invited people, so I could tell there was an aura about the sparring, where like, whoa this is kind of weird.
“But I have had much more violent sparring sessions with much better fighters, where I have been in shape and they’ve been in shape. Sparring sessions where you could charge at the door of Gleason’s Gym in those gym war days. This one paled in comparison. … As far as the quality of the sparring, it wasn’t that quality. It wasn’t that intense. The fact that Conor felt it was that intense showed me what a p*ssy he was anyway. Because if that was intense for you, bro, you haven’t even scraped the tip of the iceberg compared to what real intensity is in a fight.”
Though Malignaggi doesn’t care for McGregor personally, the UFC fighter’s outside-of-the-cage transgressions haven’t added to Malignaggi’s dislike of him. He didn’t comment on the ongoing investigation in Ireland, but said that McGregor’s antics in Brooklyn last April (where he threw a dolly through the window of a bus that was transporting Nurmagomedov as well as several other UFC fighters) and a more recent incident in Miami that has McGregor currently facing a lawsuit for allegedly destroying a man’s cell phone for wanting to take a picture of him have been blown out of proportion.
That behavior has only reinforced what Malignaggi already thought of McGregor.
“Conor wanted to be the cool guy and he wanted to be the guy who didn’t want to in the selfie at four in the morning. And he wanted to do that, but to me that doesn’t make him a criminal,” Malignaggi said. “To me that makes him more of a douchebag. Because that could be any fan, that could be any Conor McGregor fan that likes Conor McGregor — and there are a lot of them — it could have been any of you at home that went up to him for that selfie.
“So it’s not like it made him a criminal, but it just makes him a jerkoff, which I kind of already knew.”