The Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor fight on Aug. 26 might not turn out to be as entertaining as people are hoping it will be. But it sure sounds like there’s been plenty of action taking place during McGregor’s training camp in the weeks leading up to the fight.
A few weeks ago, a report emerged about how McGregor had apparently been knocked out by a sparring partner during a ring session. Then, earlier this week, another report emerged about how a sparring session between McGregor and former world champion Paulie Malignaggi had to be stopped after it got "out of control." And during an interview with ESPN late Wednesday, Malignaggi confirmed that things have, in fact, been "intense" when he’s stepped into the ring with McGregor.
Malignaggi said that he has actually sparred with McGregor twice now. And according to him, McGregor improved quite a bit between the first sparring session he had with him and the second one.
"I think the intensity Conor’s reaching is starting to show in the hard work he’s putting into camp," Malignaggi said. "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."
But Malignaggi also said that, during a sparring session on Tuesday that saw the fighters go at it for 12 rounds, things got chippy between the two. He felt like McGregor’s camp ambushed him by making him fight for so long on relatively short notice.
"Lot of violence," Malignaggi said. "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 [rounds] on Tuesday. I thought it was a little bit of a setup. 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."
Malignaggi said that he and McGregor have a "mutual respect" for one another right now. But he also suggested that there’s been no love lost between the two when they have gone to battle.
"I don’t think we’re going to be best friends anytime soon," he said, "but there was a lot more mutual respect after that kind of work [Tuesday] night. It was a lot more intense than the first one."
In addition to speaking with ESPN, Malignaggi did a video interview with TMZ Sports and showed off some of the marks on his face from his sparring session with McGregor. He stopped short of saying that McGregor has overwhelming power in the ring, but he did give him credit for packing some pop in his punch.
"Conor doesn't have bad power," he said. "It's not 'Oh my god' power...but it is respectable power."
The Mayweather/McGregor fight might not ultimately live up to all of the hype surrounding it. But it sure sounds like Malignaggi and McGregor are giving those watching their sparring sessions a real treat.