Despite a plethora of mixed martial arts action over the weekend, most of it was largely overshadowed by the upstart Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship event in Florida, although MMA played a large part in why BKFC stole the spotlight.
BKFC 6 featured a grudge match between boxer Paulie Malignaggi and MMA fighter and Conor McGregor teammate Artem Lobov. There was a lot of vitriol between the two leading up to the fight that stemmed back to when Malignaggi was a sparring partner for McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather.
Malignaggi’s relationship with McGregor soured very quickly in the gym, and then spilled over to Lobov, as Malignaggi saw an opportunity to get back in the ring for what he likely felt was going to be an easy fight.
From the opening bell, it appeared like it might be an easy fight for Malignaggi, who was visibly much quicker than Lobov and unlikely to mix it up with the ferocity that his words held in the lead-up to the fight.
Malignaggi danced and feinted throughout, but never really looked to engage, while Lobov seemed a bit perplexed by the former world champion boxer’s quickness.
Realizing he had to change things up, Lobov started taking more chances in the third round, where he eventually landed a blow that briefly staggered Malignaggi.
With that bit of success in the third round, Lobov only continued to press forward in the final two rounds, landing some heavy shots that slowed Malignaggi a bit and stifled his jab.
Though much of the thunder around this fight was expected to culminate in a slugfest in the ring, it never did. Lobov looked as if he would have heartily welcomed such a turn, but Malignaggi opted to stay out of Lobov’s range and not engage with the same sort of vigor that his pre-fight trash talk promised.
As soon as the bell for the final round sounded, Malignaggi bowed to Lobov, the two shook hands and embraced, remaining in the center of the ring for a couple of minutes, appearing to talk out their differences.
After five rounds, the judges at ringside scored the fight 48-47 unanimously in Lobov’s favor.
Lobov was happy to have won, but knew it wasn’t his best performance, saying, “It was an emotional fight. So as a result, I came in a little bit on the back foot, a little more than usual. But it was a nice win for me.”
He also said that whatever feud he had with Malignaggi was settled.
“To me, there’s many people out there that talk a lot of s—t and then they don’t show up, but Paulie he shows up. He showed up to make the fight, so I definitely respect that.”
Malignaggi also seemed to have buried the hatchet, but was shocked by the scoring, believing he had done everything necessary to win the fight, adding that he believes he broke his hand early in the bout.
“I thought I outboxed him all night. I’m pretty sure I broke my hand in the second. But even after that I felt like I boxed him pretty well,” he said. “Maybe, just maybe this wasn’t meant to be. A lot of people in boxing told me (I shouldn’t do this, you’re above this).”
Having lost the fight, Malignaggi said that he is one-and-done with bare knuckle boxing. He might have considered a return had he won, but having already retired from boxing more than two years ago, he doesn’t want to try and make the climb in another sport while coming off of a loss.
“I would have done this again and I would have considered coming back. I thought I was winning pretty easily. In my opinion, I thought I was handily winning,” said Malignaggi.
“I’m done man. If I’d have won, it’s a cool thing to come back from. I had a good time in there. I hurt man hand in round two and I was like, awe man, cuz if I hadn’t I’d have thrown more punches and I would have been more exciting.
“To my boxing fans who thought I was too good for this, I apologize.”
Bare Knuckle FC 6 Full Results
Artem Lobov def. Paul Malignaggi by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
Dakota Cochrane def. Chris Leben by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
Johnny Bedford def. Reggie Barnett by unanimous decision (47-45, 47-45, 48-44)
Julian Lane def. Tom Shoaff by unanimous decision (49-45, 49-45, 49-45)
Joey Beltran def. Jamie Campbell by KO at 1:50 of Round Two
Joe Riggs vs. Walber Tete Barros — Unanimous draw (47-47, 47-47, 47-47)
Jim Alers def. Elvin Brito by KO at 0:45, R1
David Mundell def. Drew Lipton by TKO at 1:35, R1
Abdiel Velasquez def. Travis Thompson by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 50-45)
Chris Boffil def. Jared Hayes by KO at 1:55, R3