Artem Lobov loves to fight but he typically approaches every opponent as just another obstacle standing in his way from a win and a hefty paycheck.
That won’t be the case this Saturday night when Lobov faces former boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi in a bare knuckle boxing match in the main event of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships (BKFC) 6 from Florida.
The disdain shared between the two fighters started when Malignaggi was part of Conor McGregor’s training camp for Floyd Mayweather back in 2017. Lobov is one of McGregor’s closest friends and teammates, which immediately put him at odds with Malignaggi after the New York native left the camp following a heated and controversial sparring session that still gets talked about nearly two years later.
With McGregor signed to the UFC, Malignaggi had no plans to test himself in mixed martial arts so he turned his attention to Lobov, who was more than happy to take up his teammate’s cause in the ongoing rivalry. The back and forth verbal sparring was one thing but then Malignaggi put his hands on Lobov during an altercation at a media session helping to promote a BKFC event earlier this year.
Making the fight between the two of them was a no brainer for the promotion but even the press conference to announce the even nearly boiled over when Malignaggi spat at Lobov during the customary face off with photos being snapped. As manufactured as some rivalries might be, Lobov promises that his hatred for Malignaggi is absolutely genuine and it will show when they finally clash this weekend.
“Every time you have a fight, it’s like whatever. A fight is a fight, we’re both making money here, it’s all good but not this time,” Lobov explained when speaking to MMAFighting. “This time I actually want to kill this guy. I swear to God. I’m a professional athlete and I want to get paid for my work so I’ll wait until June 22 and then I can finally let my hands go. I’m going to let justice be served.”
Trash talk is nothing new to Lobov because he’s engaged in plenty of that before but in his mind Malignaggi crossed a line when he slapped him unprovoked after BKFC president David Feldman specifically told the fighters not to physically engage with each other during their initial confrontation earlier this year.
It only got worse when Malignaggi spat at him following the press conference and that let Lobov know that everything he needed to know about the retired boxer.
“This guy is just a scumbag. He’s an actual lowlife,” Lobov said. “I don’t expect him to ever shut up even after I put him away because if you look in the past when Adrien Broner sparked him and f—ked his wife and all that he still doesn’t shut up. Nothing you do to this guy will ever make him realize what an ass—le he is.
“But it doesn’t matter, with these kinds of guys you’ve just got to make sure you beat them and everybody understands pain, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
In the lead up to the fight, Malignaggi has made it sound like Lobov doesn’t deserve to stand in the ring with him much less give him real opposition once the fists start flying. During his boxing career, Malignaggi was a world champion who faced a long list of top fighters including Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. Meanwhile, Lobov was never a top 10 ranked mixed martial artist, who carried a .500 record throughout most of his career.
On paper that might make it seem like this fight is a mismatch but Lobov is quick to point out that bare knuckle boxing is a far cry from the sport Malignaggi called his own and it’s definitely not mixed marital arts either.
“This is a different animal. It’s not MMA and it’s not quite boxing,” Lobov stated. “The one thing I will say, it’s a lot easier for an MMA fighter to adapt in this sport because we have seen it all. Many MMA fighters have tried boxing before, even just sparring for a few rounds, but no boxer has done MMA rounds. There’s just no way for them to do that. I adapt a lot quicker.
“Another advantage I have is that I’ve already experienced it. I know what it’s like and using my MMA experience, I was already able to make the changes to make me more successful in this sport, more efficient, more effective. He hasn’t had that opportunity. I don’t know what this guy is thinking. I’m going to walk up to him, grab him by the neck and I’m going to shove my fist down his throat.”
If Lobov has one concern regarding Malignaggi going into the fight this weekend, it’s whether or not the 38-year old veteran still has enough left in the tank to make it past the first few exchanges.
Malignaggi suffered a trio of knockout losses in the final six fights of his career and he hasn’t fought since 2017, which makes Lobov wonder if returning to the ring against anybody was a good idea for him and his health.
“I really hope he can last. He said he was known as a durable guy in boxing so let’s see how long he can last in here,” Lobov said. “For me, the longer it lasts, the better. I can take time out of my day any time and slap him around the place. I hope he lasts long but I’m not sure.
“In order to last long you have to have heart and your love for the sport still has to be there. Your fire still has to burn in order for you to keep going and his fire is long gone.”
Often times the nastiest rivalries can produce the best fights and when it’s all over the combatants can shake hands and put the bad blood behind them.
As much as Lobov promises he will carry himself as a professional all week long leading up to the event and stay within the rules when it’s time to fight, he can’t even fathom shaking Malignaggi’s hand when it’s all over.
“No, but I’ll shake his brain,” Lobov said. “I don’t think [I can let it go]. Because I’m looking to maul him in there. I literally want to maul this motherf—ker.”