UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor will box Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
Along the way, McGregor and retired boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi have developed something of a feud. Enough so that Showtime executive vice president Stephen Espinoza said Wednesday that he’d be interested in putting that boxing match together if it looks like fans are interested.
Here’s a look at how the McGregor-Malignaggi developed.
Dec. 1, 2016: McGregor applies for a boxing license in California. Malignaggi tweets, “If the Floyd talk is serious you gotta test the waters against a decently recognizable n respectable name right? My teams phone will be on.” He later posted a video to Twitter, saying he is “kind of interested” in McGregor coming to boxing and “if you are really going to disrespect the sport of boxing like that then I would like to be the one to teach you that lesson.”
Dec. 2, 2016: During a Q&A session for fans in Northern Ireland, McGregor is asked about his future in boxing and Malignaggi’s promise to “knock his beard off.” McGregor responded, “Who is that guy? I don’t even know who that is. I don’t know who that is but I’ll slap the nose off him if he ever mentions my name again.” Malignaggi responds with a tweet, saying he is “The guy whos gonna beat the [expletive] outta u so bad that you’ll hate yourself for even THINKING u could box at a high level.”
June 14, 2017: After months of speculation, Mayweather vs. McGregor is announced for Aug. 26 at T-Moble Arena in Las Vegas.
June 16: Showtime announces its regular broadcast team will be on the call for Mayweather vs. McGregor. Malignaggi will be one of two analysts for the bout.
June 28: During a Showtime Sports podcast, Malignaggi reveals he was invited to be one of McGregor’s sparring partners. Malignaggi says he was surprised by the offer because he hadn’t trained much since retiring earlier in the year, but he did say he’d be interested to help improve his work on fight night. “I don’t really see myself talking about anything about camp because I’m a team player,” Malignaggi said on the podcast. “I don’t want to be the kind of guy that comes out of camp and starts talking, ‘this and that, and that happened in camp’, but I think on fight night – during the broadcast – I think I will have some cool, in-depth stuff that I’d like to talk about because by that point we’re already on fight night and it’s there.”
July 12-14: Malignaggi covers the first three legs of the Mayweather vs. McGregor world tour to promote the upcoming fight. McGregor takes aim at Malignaggi during the tour, saying, “Yeah, look, Paulie talked a lot of [expletive],” McGregor said during the tour. “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. But we’re gonna have a knock in the gym.”
July 21: McGregor tweets a photo of himself in the ring with Malignaggi. McGregor has his hands behind his back with the caption, “They say I’ve got no hands.”
July 22: In an interview with ESPN, Malignaggi details that first sparring session. “There was a lot of trash talking right away,” Malignaggi said. “A lot of fighting right away. At the end, you look back on it, it was kind of fun. I don’t have many people who can match my trash talk, but Conor definitely can. It was making it a lot of fun.” Malignaggi added that McGregor had “some pop” in his left hand and said that McGregor was “actually a chill, normal guy” when the intensity lowered. “I think he is definitively an underdog, but he has a method to what he’s doing and he has a thinking process behind it,” Malignaggi said. “This is a fight of moments, and I think he can give himself certain moments.”
July 31: Longtime boxing referee Joe Cortez gives an interview to SiriusXM Boxing detailing his experience officiating a sparring session between McGregor and Malignaggi. “[McGregor] was in there mixing it up a little bit with Paulie, and it was the real thing. I had to stop the action, say, ‘You guys are a little out of control here, you’ve got to stop this.’ You know, they got a little rough. They were both roughing each other up, and I had to stop the action like it was a regular fight. They were holding too much; they were trying to punch each other. It got a little out of control to where I had to call, ‘Time! All right, guys, you’ve got to stop this right now. I want a good, clean, strong – give me a sportsman-like conduct. Understand?’”
Aug. 1: Speaking with Chris Mannix of The Dan Patrick Show, Malignaggi said sparring became “a little rough” and “very dirty in spots” as sessions became more intense. “He brings his game face into sparring. He’s not very likeable, but I’ve got to admit I’m not very likeable either a lot of times in there. Also there had been words in the media about what we had said about each other before we even came to camp. I’m sure it all came to a head in sparring and I’m sure it will come to a head again today in sparring. I’m not here to be friends with anybody and I’ve certainly seen the way he is with his sparring partners, he’s definitely not here to be friends with any of his sparring partners.”
Aug. 3: Malignaggi explains a few of his gripes with the setup of McGregor’s camp to ESPN, including a 12-round session on Aug. 1. “I went in there to prove a point. I didn’t like the fact I had to fly across the country on Monday, and they have me scheduled for 12 on Tuesday. I thought it was a little bit of a setup,” Malignaggi said. “Usually all sparring is private. I show up at the UFC headquarters and [former UFC owner Lorenzo] Fertitta is there. 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.”
That night, McGregor and members of his camp began posting photos from the sparring session on social media, including one with Malignaggi on his back on the canvas. Malignaggi tweeted, “Its not nice 2 paint a pic that isn’t true, this was a pushdown in sparring, post the whole video rounds 1 through 12 UNEDITED.” Malignaggi wasn’t thrilled with how the situation was handled, tweeting, “I came to help this camp out, not to be exploited, now your gonna get the truth though. Post FULL UNEDITED VIDEO FROM TUES night #Ethics.” Later, he tweeted he would be leaving the McGregor training camp.
Aug. 8: In an appearance on The MMA Hour, Malignaggi ripped into McGregor, calling him “one of the biggest dirtbags I’ve ever met in my life—bar none.” He also expressed his disappointment in the photos being released. “It’s something that I really didn’t ask for,” Malignaggi said. “I showed up with the best intentions to camp and at a certain point you start to realize you’re being used as a pawn where somebody’s trying to get ahead at your expense and not through your help.” Malignaggi said he took extra steps to stay in shape for McGregor, even sparring while in New York preparing to call another Showtime event. Eventually, Malignaggi had enough. “I said this guy’s just a piece of [expletive]. I can’t deal with this. His team is a bunch of piece of [expletive] cheerleaders. They’re not improving him. They’re not getting him better. They’re just telling him he’s doing good even if he’s not. I don’t need to be around these people. It’s not like they brought me in for anything tactical like everybody thought they would.”
Aug. 11: During a media workout for the Mayweather fight, McGregor said Malignaggi was outmatched in their sparring and was “badly concussed” when it was over. “He was looking for an exit. The spars were not good for him. He took a lot of head trauma. Straight after it, we were worried. The sparring partners were actually telling us that when he was dropped back to the home he was stumbling out of the car after the 12-rounder.”
Aug. 12: Just after midnight, UFC president Dana White posted a pair of videos to his Twitter and Instagram accounts showing short clips of a sparring session. In one of them, Malignaggi goes to the canvas, but it is unclear if a knockdown or push caused him to fall. Malignaggi took to Twitter, bashing White and explaining why he felt it was a push instead of a knockdown. When asked by a Twitter user to take on McGregor himself, Malignaggi said, “Lol well St Patrick’s day does fall on a Saturday in 2018 ;-).”
Aug. 14: Malignaggi comments on a potential matchup with McGregor to The MMA Hour. “I understand this business very well,” he said. “I’ve done well in this business, not just in the sport. I’ve done well in the business. I understand how this works very well. My eyes went to the calendar when I saw how much this is buzzing.” Still, he wants to wait and see how McGregor looks as a boxer before planning anything.
Separately, White tells Sky Sports that Malignaggi lied about his experience in McGregor’s camp. “I was there for all 12 rounds and Paulie has said some crazy things, some bad things about me. I felt sorry for the guy, it was a one-way beating and a lot of people were saying Conor couldn’t box, Paulie was obviously lying about everything that he said about the sparring match so I released it.” White said he wouldn’t mind releasing the full 12-round tape, but McGregor doesn’t want Mayweather to have the tape for training. “It was very one-sided, it was an absolute beating. And guess what? I think it was the right thing for Paulie Malignaggi to definitely leave for his health’s sake.”
Aug. 16: During a media conference call, McGregor responded to a question about fighting Malignaggi. “Tell the kid to join the queue,” McGregor said. “Tell him to shut his mouth and join the queue. ... He got his [expletive] whooped and went sprinting, I don’t know what else to say about the guy. But hey, there is a big list of people that want to get in there and fight me, so tell him to join the queue and we’ll see what happens after the fight.” That same day, betting site Bovada released odds for a potential McGregor-Malignaggi fight with the New Yorker opening as a -225 favorite and McGregor a +175 underdog.
Aug. 21: Malignaggi tells Sky Sports the boxing world is laughing at McGregor’s attempt to crossover from MMA. “McGregor gets angry because boxing has not accepted him, but would an MMA fighter accept a boxer walking into their sport claiming that they are the best when he’s never done it in his life?” Malignaggi said. “That’s the situation with McGregor in boxing, he is being laughed at and it is only getting worse as each video of a public workout or him shadow boxing is released.”
Aug. 22: During a CBS Sports podcast, Malignaggi details why he would be a good opponent for McGregor. “There’s no easy out for him in the UFC and he’ll make less money,” Malignaggi said. “His options to stay in boxing are there, but he’s not going to take on a guy in his prime like an Errol Spence who would put him in a hospital. So he can’t do that. You have an ex-world champion who you have a spoken beef with and he’s not an Errol Spence, it’s Paulie Malignaggi. So you think people would give him more of a chance or what not. It has to make sense and it has to make dollars and cents. It has to make sense as far as what are his realistic chances that he thinks in his mind that he has. So when you think about it this way, Paulie Malignaggi becomes a very viable option.”
During arrivals for Mayweather vs. McGregor in Las Vegas, the Irishman and the Brooklynite got into a heated confrontation outside T-Mobile Arena in front of media members. Malignaggi began speaking to McGregor’s manager, who told Malignaggi, “you were talking out of your contract, Paulie,” as Malignaggi complained about pictures being released. McGregor then intervened, telling Malignaggi to “get over it.” Malignaggi then taunted McGregor, asking, “Did you bring your [expletives], Conor?” repeatedly. McGregor responded by saying, “You got your [expletive] whooped,” before the men were separated.
Aug. 23: Showtime executive vice president Stephen Espinoza said he doesn’t question Malignaggi’s objectivity for the PPV broadcast of Mayweather vs. McGregor. “There does come a point, even if objectivity is not in question, behavior becomes an issue,” Espinoza told MMAFighting.com. Espinoza declined to comment further as to how he handled that conversation with Malignaggi.