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Paulie Malignaggi: Prospective fight with Artem Lobov will be about ‘how bad can I hurt this guy’

When the day comes for Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov to actually throw hands, they’ll already have laid out plenty of promotional groundwork.

Lobov is actually set to fight fellow former UFC featherweight Jason Knight this Saturday in the main event of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 5 in Biloxi, Mississippi, but you might not know it given that he has his sights set on a future bare-knuckle match with Malignaggi (who signed with the promotion in March), and vice versa.

The two had the chance to meet face-to-face at a media day in New York on Tuesday and sure enough, the sparks immediately flew.

A day prior, Malignaggi appeared on The MMA Hour and he had a harsh assessment of Lobov’s skills and how the action will unfold if they get to meet in the ring.

“I’ve seen him,” Malignaggi said. “Horrible. Absolutely horrible. He’s got heart and he seems to have a decent chin.”

“With Lobov, how accurate is he gonna be with a real boxer? I’m gonna be accurate as shit, I’m gonna use him like a dartboard,” he continued. “I’m gonna use his face like a dartboard. It’s not about winning and losing here, because it’s not even a question that I’m gonna win the fight. It’s about how bad I can hurt this guy. For me, if I don’t hurt him to a degree that there’s something permanent there, it’s not a win for me.”

Malignaggi, a former IBF light welterweight and WBA welterweight boxing champion, didn’t express much concern when asked if the fact that both he and Lobov would be competing outside of their respective realms could possibly level the playing field. If anything, Malignaggi predicts that he’ll be even more dangerous against an opponent that he views as inferior.

“I’m gonna land, I’m gonna land hard, I’m gonna land often, and I’m gonna be balanced enough to continuously land on you because I don’t have to regain my balance when I throw a punch,” Malignaggi said. “I can literally pummel the shit out of you. And that’s what I’m gonna do to this guy. I’m going to beat the living shit out of him and that’s what’s gonna happen when we do get in there.

“But right now, let him focus on his fight because I don’t want to jinx anything. I don’t want to disrespect even his opponent for this week.”

One aspect of the matchup that does have Malignaggi somewhat mystified is the apparent level of interest in it. Prior to Malignaggi’s infamous 2017 sparring session with Lobov’s close friend and teammate, UFC superstar Conor McGregor, it’s hard to imagine anyone even attempting to connect the dots to make Malignaggi vs. Lobov materialize.

But feuding with McGregor meant feuding with McGregor’s team and that included Lobov, a fighter whose never-say-die attitude and quirky sense of humor have made him a cult hero despite middling results. He may not have the massive following of McGregor, but Lobov’s fanbase have made sure to let Malignaggi know that “The Russian Hammer” would be a worthy opponent.

“I didn’t think there was any interest in the Artem Lobov fight, at least not from me at first,” Malignaggi said. “I used to sweep it aside, like, ‘This guy’s a bum. What am I going to do with this?’ Then all of a sudden I see my social media and everything is pumping up with it.”

Outside of a Lobov fight, Malignaggi isn’t sure what BKFC has in store for him. He is grateful for the opportunity being given to him by the promotion’s president David Feldman, and described the transition from traditional boxing to bare-knuckle as a strategic move. The 38-year-old, who retired from boxing in March 2017, confessed to still craving the limelight (“We’re all narcissists as fighters,” he said) and that BKFC was the best situation for him to be featured in a main-event capacity while also being properly compensated.

As far as the competition goes? Malignaggi expects to be a cut above the rest.

“Honestly, no disrespect to the talent pool, but the talent pool’s not on my level,” Malignaggi said. “It’s mostly washed-up MMA fighters. I’ll knock out an MMA fighter in his prime in bare-knuckle boxing, so a washed-up MMA fighter is not gonna have anything for me.

“No matter what anybody thinks, if I’m washed up or not washed up, regardless of whether I’m washed up or not, these are not prime MMA fighters. … That’s basically the way I looked at it. It’s giving me the whole upside of a big promotion.”

So far, Malignaggi thinks the relationship with him and Feldman has worked out well as he awaits the result of the Lobov-Knight fight while helping to generate mainstream media attention.

It helps that Malignaggi has become inextricably connected to McGregor, one of the world’s most famous athletes, and that’s a storyline that he’s learned to accept. Especially if it leads to him putting his hands on Lobov.

“Then I realized, you know what my name being attached to Conor ended up working out for me,” Malignaggi said, when asked if he’s tired of all the McGregor talk. “I’m getting paid off this stupid, stupid, beef. I’m probably going to end up making stupid money for beating the shit out of a punching bag.

“Lobov, for me, is a punching bag with feet.”

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