THE INFAMOUS sparring sessions between Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi didn’t end their rivalry – instead, it only fueled it more.
It started in December 2016, when Malignaggi insulted McGregor’s chances of beating Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match as rumors of the UFC star boxing increased.
When The Notorious was signed to face Mayweather, he challenged Malignaggi – who had four months of retirement at the time – to come to his training camp in Las Vegas to train.
They clashed twice, first more than eight rounds, then 12 – but a disputed overthrow of Malignaggi in subsequently released footage caused the American’s Irishman to flee.
Since then, the couple have continued to remember different accounts of what happened during their combat sessions and have engaged in a high-level word war.
But here, SunSport gives the perspective of those who were at the UFC Performance Institute to try to find out what really happened.
After McGregor’s open training before his boxing debut against Mayweather, the Malignaggi feud dominated the headlines.
And when asked about the sessions, McGregor didn’t shoot any punches because he said, “The spars weren’t good for him. He suffered a lot of head trauma. Immediately after, we were worried.
“He was knocked down, he was crushed against the ropes. Many times the ropes kept him on his feet.
“We were worried about him. We thought the worst would happen. He was certainly badly crushed. And then he just went out and started running.
“He showed up, he did his best. It did not work. He got his ass whipped, he had his bumpy pride and then he wanted to go out. “
In an interview with boxing manager Sam Jones this month, the double world champion insists he was right about McGregor, and still denies that he was knocked down.
He claims he ended up on the web after a push.
Malignaggi said, “People say to me, ‘You’re embarrassed, he knocked you over’ but he didn’t knock over. He didn’t bother me.
“People are wishing so badly that they might see the full video and be right, but you will never get the full video.
“I beat your man’s brothel, he’s a tramp! It’s the classic promotion of combat sports. “
Malignaggi has requested release of the full combat session, but has so far been ignored, with only selected footage and images available online.
JOE CORTEZ, REFEREE
As McGregor prepared to trade the octagon for the ring, he employed legendary referee Cortez to oversee his training sessions – including against Malignaggi.
And the grievor sat on the fence when asked about the spars, as he said to Helen Yee, “I can tell you that I was there for twelve rounds with them and that there were many things.
“A lot of boxing fans and MMA fans want to know and I can tell you to be there that the fight should take place.
“It was very competitive. That is what I am saying. I know full well that it would make a good fight.
“It would be a better fight than McGregor against Mayweather!” They should put Malignaggi and McGregor together.
“I think it would be a great fight and the fans would buy it. “
DANA WHITE, PRESIDENT OF UFC
McGregor’s boss at the UFC, White, has been invited to watch his star fighter Malignaggi.
And in an interview with Sky Sports, the promoter revealed, “I was there for the 12 rounds – and Paulie said crazy things, bad things about me – I felt sorry for the guy.
“It was a one-way hit and a lot of people say Conor couldn’t box, Paulie was obviously lying about everything he said about the fight match, so I published it.
“It was very one-sided, it was an absolute beating, and guess what? I think it was good for Paulie Malignaggi to leave permanently, for her health. “
ARTEM LOBOV, McGREGOR TRAINING PARTNER
UFC veteran Lobov then defeated Malignaggi in an unarmed fight, but revealed that he had received tremendous confidence before the grudge match after witnessing the spars.
Lobov told SunSport last year, “I watched him with glee and honest with God, he was nothing but a blow.
“His jab was good, he had speed, but everyone knows that with age speed is the first thing to do.
“Honestly, the punch bag made it more difficult for Conor, he didn’t throw anything away.
“He tried to move with the jab, he was terrified to let go of the right hand because of the counters.
“Honestly, he didn’t offer anything – Conor played with him, talked to him and that’s it. He didn’t do anything, he didn’t get a solid shot. “
JOHN KAVANAGH, COACH OF McGREGOR
McGregor’s head coach Kavanagh gave a more balanced account of the workouts he saw before hanging on to his first boxing match, but gave Malignaggi credit for going into spars as an inactive fighter.
Kavanagh said on Joe Rogan’s podcast: “Paulie also picked up her shots. He’s a brilliant boxer. For me as a coach, it was amazing to watch it.
“Obviously, he gained a little weight and he was able to do 12 rounds anyway.
“After about the fourth round, I said” He’s not going to continue “, he was breathing very hard and he had been hit hard and sat down once – whether you thought it was a push or a punch – but a lot of heavy fire.
“I thought he was going to be out of here in six days. We had another training partner ready, and I said, “OK, be ready to go because I think it will last about six laps.”
“Paulie just hit that pace and watched her own shots land and it turned out to be a great competition.
“And I’m going to say contest because it was not a spar, they talked all the time.
“They were talking all the time, Paulie was talking to me, he was talking to the cameraman, he was almost better than Conor, it was great to watch. “
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SAM JONES, BOXING MANAGER
Malignaggi went to training sessions alone, without a coach, and was unable to have any of his own spar recordings.
But Joe Joyce’s manager Jones revealed that he had an insider who insisted that Malignaggi could easily deal with ring novice McGregor.
He said, “Look, I talked – and I’m not going to say who he was because he’s a stranger in boxing – but he was there.
“(McGregor) didn’t knock him down. Paulie, you were not in good shape, you got there and you were playing with him. “