Paulie Malignaggi will be joining Conor McGregor’s training camp in Las Vegas this week.
The recently retired boxer and current Showtime analyst revealed several weeks back that he had been asked to act as a sparring partner for McGregor ahead of the Irishman’s professional boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on August 26th. In recent days, however, Malignaggi had expressed doubt about the link-up, indicating that he hadn’t been contacted by McGregor’s representative’s for quite some time.
But things have changed.
“They have contacted me again, I’ll be joining them shortly,” Malignaggi told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I fly out Wednesday to Las Vegas,” he added when pushed for more information by Helwani.
Many expected McGregor to bring in a boxing coach to aid him in preparation ahead of this fight, but he has chosen to stick with the team that brought him to this point, head coach John Kavanagh and striking coach Owen Roddy. However, some have wondered aloud if Malignaggi will act as a kind of advisor as well as a sparring partner once he joins the camp. The fast-talking Italian-American was quick to play down this idea, though.
“I think Conor has a very capable training team,” said Malignaggi. “He’s got a team that really understands him both inside the octagon and outside the octagon. They know him as a fighter and as a person. So, if you know the guy as a fighter and a person, I don’t want to change that because you know the psychology of him as well as the technical analysis of him. So, I wouldn’t say I’m going there to train.
“If I’m going to give a couple of technical tidbits, maybe, maybe not, but I definitely wouldn’t call myself a trainer. I think his team has that foundation down pat and they are going to be doing the training and be in charge of all that. But, of course, I’ll be going there to spar and if I see anything and we’re on good terms, I’ll share my views.”
When talking from the centre of a media scrum during the recent press tour for his upcoming fight, McGregor claimed that he had some ulterior motives for bringing Malignaggi into the camp. When murmurs first began about the McGregor vs Mayweather bout, a number of boxers called out the UFC star, trying to goad him into taking a tune-up fight before stepping in with one of the greatest of all time. One of the men who barked the loudest during that time was Malignaggi and McGregor told the media last week that he wants the former two-division titlist in camp so that they can settle the score.
“Yeah, look, Paulie talked a lot of shit,” said ‘The Notorious’ one. “Look he’s been brought in to spar and then he’ll answer to what he’s been saying and then we’ll go from there after that.”
Malignaggi, who retired following a loss to Sam Eggington in England earlier this year having compiled a record of 36-8 over the course of a sixteen-year pro career, wasn’t perturbed by McGregor’s hostility.
“When Conor got his boxing licence, all the boxers were like, ‘Wow this is a big pay check here’ and the guy was probably a bit limited [compared to] your basic world class boxer, so everybody was trying to get in there,” Malignaggi told Helwani. “So, me, using my trash-talking ability that I have and me knowing that I’m one of the better known fighters in the business, I know how to put myself to the forefront. I tried to talk a little bit of trash and get under his skin and see if he would take the bait. But I think that’s basically what they are looking at. What he was talking about was when I was talking trash way back then.
“Yeah, we are going to have a knock in the gym. But listen, Ariel, from a fighter’s perspective, you have a knock in the gym anyway. Even if you’re best friends with the guy you’re sparring, you’re going to have a knock in the gym. That’s just the way sparring goes, especially at a world-class championship level.”
“I’ve never been a part of a training camp where sparring was light,” he added. “Even when I was the young kid, sparring the champion, we used to try and take each others heads off and when I was the championship-level fighter bringing in young sparring partners, we still used to try to take each others heads off, whether you are cool with them outside the gym or not.
“That’s just the way sparring is, you have to raise your intensity level to a very high level because on fight night you need to be able to reach down and get to that intensity level. And you need to be familiar with that intensity level. You can’t just show up on fight night and reach an intensity level that you are not use to getting to. So, you get there in sparring a few times a week and little by little your mind and your body acclimates to that kind of intensity, so you don’t really have to dig deep to reach it, you’re automatically on auto-pilot once you reach that intensity level on fight night
“So, the having a knock in the gym part, it’s good for the media to jump on, it’s good for the fans to jump on, to give them something to talk about, but in reality, Ariel, you’re going to have a knock in the gym regardless. That’s just the way it is.”
McGregor spent the first several weeks of his training camp in Ireland, but following the last leg of the press tour he relocated to Las Vegas, where he will remain for the next six weeks.
We now know that Malignaggi will be among the crew of sparring partners that will work with McGregor during this portion of the camp. As will Irish amateur standout Tiarnan Bradley, who sparred with McGregor in Dublin over the last few weeks. The Tyrone native confirmed on social media recently that his services have been retained. Reports also suggest that undefeated English pro Louis Adolphe will continue to act as a sparring partner after his own participation in the Dublin leg of the camp.