PAULIE Malignaggi has revealed the real story behind the viral photograph of him laying on the canvas in front of Conor McGregor during their hotly-debated sparring session in Las Vegas.
The photograph (above) was published on Twitter by McGregor photographer Dave Fogarty on August 4 with a caption “there (sic) no conspiracy, there (sic) no photoshop just pure unadulterated power”.
Malignaggi has furiously denied he was ever knocked down by the UFC star during the 12-round session, insisting he was pushed down in the moment captured by Fogarty.
McGregor hasn’t specifically addressed the situation — a move Malignaggi believes is aimed at maintaining the mystique around his boxing ability.
But in a lengthy discussion of his experience in the Irishman’s camp, Malignaggi put everything on the table.
“The funny thing about the pushdown round was this … it was during one of his worst moments,” Malignaggi told the MMA Hour. “He pushed me down on the floor to try and catch a break. The instant I went down I got up and I remember I continued the trash talk and said ‘what’s up, buddy? you need a break?’
“I started taking it to him right after. I said ‘there’s no breaks here, you don’t get no break’ and started hitting him with more body shots and said ‘take those, they don’t feel good’. And I heard him start to whimper … and said ‘take those, eat those, get used to those’.”
Malignaggi quit the camp after the image was leaked following the session — the second time he sparred with McGregor as the two-division UFC champion prepares for his boxing debut against all-time great Floyd Mayweather.
The retired pugilist, who won world titles in two weight divisions during a career in which he fought the best fighters of his era, labelled McGregor a “scumbag” and a “bitch”, his team a bunch of “cheerleaders” and the accommodation he was provided with while he stayed in Las Vegas a “crackhouse”.
Malignaggi’s analysis of the 12 rounds was McGregor started and finished strongly but he was able to dominate in the middle rounds.
“He caught a nice one (beating) for five rounds,” Malignaggi said.
“After seven, which was one of his worst rounds, he tells me ‘7-0 me’. I remember walking back to my corner yelling back to him, ‘whatever school you went to they didn’t teach you how to count’.”
Malignaggi was also bemused by the presence of UFC president Dana White and McGregor’s manager, Audie Attar, at the spar, believing they were invited because “The Notorious” expected to dominate. But as Malignaggi’s confidence grew in the middle rounds, he made sure White was aware of what was happening.
“I was feeling so good I started yelling at Dana White … ‘this is the bitch you brought me here? 24 hours ago I was on a flight!’ …
“I knew that Conor heard me across the ring. Dana didn’t acknowledge it with any kind of emotion, he didn’t say anything, but he was looking at me when I was saying it.”
In his only public comments on the controversy, McGregor told Showtime’s All Access: “He (Malignaggi) stayed in there, you’ve got to respect him for that. But that was it. He came, he got his ass whooped and that was it.”
But Malignaggi painted a much different picture of the action and said he regrets offering his services in the first place.
“I land in Vegas and they tell me, ‘you’re going 12 (rounds) tomorrow’,” Malignaggi said.
“Now, for people who aren’t familiar with a training camp, no one is ever expected to do 12 straight (rounds). The fighter in camp does 12 straight, but when the fighter in camp does 12 straight, he alternates (sparring partners).
“Doing it like that you’re gaining two things — you have the sparring partners all at their best and, like I said, (the fighter in camp) gets uncomfortable — you have to be comfortable getting uncomfortable at times.
“By the time you get to the third (sparring partner), you’re tiring, you’re uncomfortable. And the (sparring partner) is fresh, he’s looking to beat the crap out of you, you know?”
“He hung tough the first five rounds,” the veteran boxer added. “He came out sharper, with more of a purpose (than their first sparring session). He hung tough for the first rounds, he even landed a couple of good shots, but I was starting to take over.
“My work was more consistent. My style was more consistent. My counter punching was sharper. My jab was sharper. There was just more consistency on my part …
“I’ve done this for 20 years of my life, so from one sparring session to another to another, the rate at which I progress is a lot faster because the muscle memory comes back. The reaction and timing starts to come back at a faster and faster rate.
“Even if he got better from the first sparring, I got way better from the first sparring. And on the third and fourth one, I would’ve got better and better. By the end of camp, this guy would’ve understood after two sparring (sessions), that his ass was going to get beat for the rest of camp.
“From about six rounds on, he became very hittable. So much more hittable that I was putting more weight on my shots and sitting down more on my shots, and of course, the body shots started to affect him more and more.
“Of course, I’m talking the whole time, because the first time he made sure to talk the whole time. Now I’m talking more and more and I’m letting him know, ‘you can’t hang, these body shots feel good, right?’
“In MMA the body shots aren’t the same as in boxing in that there is consistency to body shots in boxing. There is a debilitating breakdown from the body shots in boxing. Little by little you feel the air come out of you with fatigue.
“Fatigue is always hard because you don’t have enough snap in your shots any more. You can’t throw as often as you want to.
“He stopped talking because he wanted to save as much energy as he could. He stopped throwing as many punches. He caught some nice ones for the first five rounds. The nice ones he caught were the whole time when I was talking.”
Malignaggi still hoped the two men could put their differences aside and posed for a photograph after the action stopped.
“Then I said, ‘Conor, do me a favour, bro. No more of these crazy pictures’,” Malignaggi said. “The week before, when I was working (commentating a fight between Adrien Broner and Mikey Garcia), the media was there for the fight week because that was a big fight in boxing. All everybody wanted to know about was these pictures.
“I told Conor that it becomes very hard for me to not disclose the NDA that I have when you’re putting up pictures of me.
“I am not one of the other sparring partners. Nobody knows who the other sparring partners are. Everyone knows who I am. When you put up a picture of me in sparring, the media rush comes to me and I have to answer questions that I don’t want to deal with.
“I have to try and make you look good. I want you to look good. I want to say things that make you look good. I want to promote you and help you out, but not at my expense.
“I also have to try and figure how to do it without making myself look bad now because you’re putting out me in compromising positions with these pictures.
“I had this conversation with Conor after the second sparring in the dressing room and this is probably when I realised what a dickhead this guy is because at that moment we had just done 12 hard rounds and there’s a respect that I’m feeling, at least.
“He looks at me, and I’m expecting, ‘you’re right, Paulie — you got it, let’s just keep this good work going.’
“Instead, he looks at me and he gives me this smirk, laughs at me and he starts walking away from me.
“He gives me his back, he’s walking away towards the showers and he’s like, ‘Ha ha, I don’t know Paulie. We got some good ones in those last two rounds. I don’t know about that.’
“At this stage I’m waiting for Ashton Kutcher to walk into the dressing rooms and tell me I got Punk’d. I thought it was a joke. I thought there was no way this guy is that much of an asshole.”