Paulie Malignaggi has just gone a full 12 rounds in the ring with Conor McGregor in the ring as preparations continue for the Irish superstar’s fight with Floyd Mayweather at the end of the month, and the retired champion says the sparring session was even more intense than their first one.
This time the two were sparring while UFC President Dana White and former UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta watched on from the sidelines, and that was something that Malignaggi wasn’t particularly happy about.
“Usually all sparring is private,” Malignaggi told ESPN. “I show up at the UFC headquarters and [former owner, Lorenzo] Fertitta is there. [UFC president] Dana White is there. So, I’m thinking these guys are thinking they’ll catch me right off the flight, set me up for him to look good in front of his audience. I didn’t like that. I kind of went in with a chip on my shoulder.”
As such, Malignaggi admitted that the sparring session that followed featured, “lots of violence,” and was “a lot more intense than the first one.”
Malignaggi revealed that there weren’t any knockdowns during the 12-rounder, but indicated that both men had some success at different points in the fight and that McGregor had been using every trick in the book to impose his will on the seasoned boxer.
“Any time he’s in the ring, he’s trying to make it as rough as possible — be it roughhouse tactics, be it trying to land hard shots.
“There was a pushdown yesterday. Conor on the inside, he can get a little rough. He shoved me down, you know, but no knockdowns. Obviously, 12 rounds, you’re gonna see there’s a mark on my face. Very, very hard work for both of us.
“I was starting to get in a groove in the middle rounds, starting to land some good shots. Conor really came on strong in the end. It was back and forth.”
At the end of it all, Malignaggi seemed more pleased with his own performance this time around, but he also made it clear that he observed noticeable improvements from McGregor too.
“I think the intensity Conor’s reaching is starting to show in the hard work he’s put into camp. I think he’s getting better and better. I really felt improvements from two weeks ago to now … I do see a guy who is implementing more and more of what they want to do in their game plan.”
That being said, Malignaggi doesn’t expect the two to become best buddies any time soon.
“We’re like, I think the gist from Conor is we’re like ‘frenemies.’ I think somewhere in the middle,” Malignaggi said.
“I don’t think we’re going to be best friends any time soon, but there was a lot more mutual respect after that kind of work last night.”