Paulie, don't go away mad; Paulie, just go away

Going all the way back to “The Money Fight,” Paulie Malignaggi has come off like a man scheming to make one last big cash grab.

Conor McGregor’s star power entered the orbit of Floyd Mayweather during the memorable summer of 2017, as the biggest stars in MMA and boxing joined forces to make enough money that neither would have to work another day in their lives if they so chose. Their boxing match in Las Vegas did the second-highest buy rate in pay-per-view history, with Mayweather reportedly pocketing $300 million and McGregor $100 million.

In the masterful process of hyping the bout, footage was conveniently leaked of McGregor dropping former WBA and IBF champion Malignaggi during a sparring session. It was a selective piece of editing, no doubt, released to maximize effect at the precise moment fans on the fence were wondering if McGregor had any chance of being competitive with Mayweather.

If you’re Malignaggi, and you retired from boxing – and sure, you’ve settled into a nice post-career role as a talented boxing commentator, but you didn’t think you’d see those big boxing paydays again – how can you not take this all in and see dollar signs?

Malignaggi made himself ubiquitous in the aftermath of McGregor’s 10th-round TKO loss to Mayweather, sticking his face in front of anyone with a camera who would have him. It was a thirsty attempt to ride “The Money Fight’s” coattails and troll McGregor into a fight.

It never panned out. McGregor went back to Ireland and did what you’d expect a 20-something who suddenly had nine figures to his name to do, as reports of all sorts leaked out about “The Notorious” living up to his nickname. When it was time to get back to work, it was in the familiar confines of the octagon, so Malignaggi was out of luck.

But Paulie wasn’t going to be deterred. When McGregor’s running buddy, Artem Lobov, signed on with Bare Knuckle FC earlier this year, Malignaggi seemed to smell an easy mark. Here was a sub-.500 mixed martial artist who seemed to be on his way down after being cut by the UFC. 

Lobov’s debut in Bare Knuckle a few months back saw him go toe to toe with Jason Knight, a fellow UFC castoff whose bread and butter was a jiu-jitsu game he can’t use in the ring.

Malignaggi must have seen Lobov as the easiest payday of his life.

And who knows? Maybe if Paulie had gone out and done what most people expected would happen when you match a former two-time boxing champion with a middling MMA fighter, perhaps McGregor finally could be goaded into that boxing match.

And Malignaggi did his best to goad. He spit on Lobov at a press conference and threatened to urinate on him. He mocked the intelligence of MMA fans – whose interest in the Malignaggi-SBG Ireland feud have helped keep him relevant – for even suggesting Lobov had a chance. 

That helped build the hype to a fever pitch, to the degree that here at MMA Junkie, Malignaggi-Lobov content was driving 10 times as much traffic during Saturday night’s fight as UFC and Bellator events on the same day.

“I think we sold the (expletive) out of the fight, and at the end of the day, you can be happy about that,” Malignaggi said. 

Then the fight happened. If you were tuning in to BKFC for the first time, you might have wondered what the hullabaloo was all about. There’s been an ironic hysterical reaction to bare-knuckle boxing in some quarters of the MMA world, as some have decried the fledgling promotion with the same over-the-top terms that hapless old boxing twits used to describe the earliest days of the UFC. 

But barbarism was nowhere to be found in what turned into a tactical fight in Tampa, Fla. And hey, guess what? When everyone tuned in to see UFC 5 as controversy swirled, the bout between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock put the noobs to sleep, too. Maybe BKFC and earliest days of the UFC have more in common than some care to admit. 

Anyway, Malignaggi did his best to question the result afterwards. He showed up to the post-fight press conference with both hands wrapped. He said he might’ve broken his hand in the second round, which enabled Lobov to rally in the second half of the fight and claim a unanimous decision on scores of 48-47 across the board.

Paulie claimed Lobov only hit him once throughout the fight. That must have been one of the most hellacious punches in the history of combat sports, since Paulie had several cuts, including a huge gash, on his face after the fight.

Either way, it wasn’t a performance that suggests there will be any appetite for a rematch among the paying public. What seemed like his easiest backdoor bout to a potential fight with McGregor instead ended with a two-time world boxing champion having to explain to his peers how he lost to an MMA journeyman.

Your 15 minutes are up in our neck of the woods, Paulie. You’re really good at your job as a boxing commentator. Please go back there and stay there. 

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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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