Two weeks away from the biggest fight of his career, perhaps the biggest in combat sports history, Conor McGregor doesn’t seem too concerned with the recent drama surrounding him and former sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi.
Malignaggi, a former two-weight world champion boxer and now a respected analyst, quit McGregor’s camp just days after joining when photos were leaked that appeared to show him getting outboxed by McGregor. The former champ then launched a campaign of trash talk against the UFC king, calling McGregor a “scumbag,” too egotistical to truly improve, and perhaps the cheapest host he’s ever come across.
McGregor offered his perspective on the growing rivalry in a lengthy interview with MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani on Saturday, taking a few shots back at the retired fighter.
“He’s a guy that’s at the end of his career,” McGregor said. “I get the feeling he feels that the boxing game has betrayed him.”
The reigning UFC lightweight champion also suggested he and Malignaggi simply had different understandings of why the latter was brought into camp.
“I mean, I don’t know what he expected coming in here after speaking what he was speaking,” McGregor said, referring to comments Malignaggi made in 2016, about being able to beat McGregor with one hand tied behind his back. “He knew exactly what he was being brought in for: a fight. You speak these things, you want to come in and try and answer for it and try and prove yourself – respect. At the end of the day, respect to coming in. Respect to coming in and trying to answer for yourself. He did try his best.”
While McGregor offered some mild props for Malignaggi’s willingness to enter the ring with him, he pulled no punches when describing the pair’s sparring sessions.
“He got badly, badly slapped around,” McGregor said. “He was knocked down, the ropes kept him up multiple times. He was badly concussed. The sparring partners that were in the house were worried about him that night, saying ‘He’s incoherent, he’s stumbling.’ It didn’t go good for him, so it is what it is.”
McGregor offered up his thoughts on why Malignaggi decided to quit his camp as well.
“He got his a–– whooped, Ariel, and that’s it,” McGregor told Helwani. “He got his ego dented, and off he went out the door. An exit presented itself for him and he took it, 100 miles an hour, because he needed to get out of there. He couldn’t continue.
“So, on we carry on with business. We are fighting someone else in a couple of weeks, so it doesn’t make no difference.”
He wasn’t any more agreeable in regards to Malignaggi’s accusations of him being a cheap fight camp host.
“Everyone on my team is looked after,” McGregor said. “Ask the other sparring partners the situation. Ask them, don’t ask the disgruntled guy who got his ego hurt. … True fighters have stayed present. True warriors, that can take a smack and give a smack, have stayed present.
“People who have worried about their image have gone sprinting.”
While the growing feud has prompted some to wonder if Malignaggi is angling for a future bout with McGregor – Malignaggi retired from the sport in March after a knockout loss to Sam Eggington – the UFC superstar must first deal with the task at hand: an Aug. 26th meeting with Floyd Mayweather Jr. at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.