After exchanging more than a few expletive laced tirades, a slap and a spitting incident, Artem Lobov is ready to put his rivalry with Paulie Malignaggi behind him.
Now it’s probably much easier for the former UFC featherweight to do that after defeating Malignaggi by unanimous decision in their main event brawl at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships 6 but either way he left the ring with a new found respect for his opponent.
“I knew he was a tough guy,” Lobov said about Malignaggi at the BKFC 6 post fight press conference. “He’s experienced, he won 50 fights, I knew this was not going to be easy.”
For all the bad blood that boiled over in the lead up to the fight, Lobov complimented Malignaggi for stepping into the ring with him to do battle the same way he was willing to spend two separate sparring sessions with his teammate Conor McGregor as he prepared to face Floyd Mayweather in 2017.
Those sparring sessions led to the disdain shared between McGregor and Malignaggi and by extension drew Lobov into it as well.
Lobov said afterwards that he hasn’t had a chance to speak to McGregor since the fight ended but in his mind, he’s putting Malignaggi behind him for good. The two men even exchange a hug in the ring and a high five on stage after the fight was finished.
“I said this before, for me I will always respect the fighter that shows up,” Lobov stated. “Paulie showed up to the spar. If you were to offer the same thing to many other boxers, they probably wouldn’t show up to the spar but he did and he did a full 12 rounds twice and he showed up again today.
“I take my hat off to him. He’s always been a fighter and he still is.”
If there was one person who got under Lobov’s skin on Saturday night it was the referee from the main event, who was constantly breaking up the clinch during the fight rather than allowing the athletes to work from the position.
In one particular exchange, Lobov finally caught Malignaggi against the ropes where he began unloading with a huge barrage of shots that opened several cuts on his opponent’s face.
“I was a little bit surprised with the way the referee kind of worked the clinch. He was on top of me right away, trying to break up the clinch,” Lobov said. “If you look at some of the boxing fights, even in the boxing fights where the clinch is not allowed, they allow people to work a little longer in the clinch than they did in this where the clinch is allowed.
“The one time where Paulie’s talking about where I caught him and I was landing shots and then the ref comes on top of me and pulls me off. I’m like what’s going on and he says ‘you’ve got to be landing shots’ and I’m like what the f—k was I doing do you think? I was landing shots. I was throwing shots.”
Unlike traditional boxing, the clinch is allowed in the rules in bare knuckle boxing, which is why Lobov implemented that as a key to his strategy to beat the more technical boxer in Malignaggi.
“That was a big part of my game plan,” Lobov explained. “Get him in the clinch and work him there and I really wanted to push him against the ropes. Because the ropes here are really hard, almost like a cage, so I was going to do like we do in MMA.
“Push him against the cage, get good position, get the underhook and then land some shots. But the referee didn’t allow me to do that for some reason. I was a little bit surprised.”
Regardless of the referee, Lobov was able to get the job done and earn the unanimous decision victory as he moved to 2-0 in bare knuckle boxing with more fights planned in the future.