Artem Lobov and Paulie Malignaggi fought under the rules of bare knuckle boxing this past weekend, but their grudge match at Bare Knuckle FC 6 stole much of the thunder from competing mixed martial arts fight cards from both the UFC and Bellator MMA.
Lobov is a UFC veteran, so his ties to MMA are strong, but Malignaggi's interest from the MMA fan base is largely due to his disastrous outing as a sparring partner for Conor McGregor. Lobov is a teammate of McGregor's and his beef with Malignaggi largely stemmed from the failed attempt of Malignaggi to help McGregor prepare for his boxing debut with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
There was a lot of trash talk and explosive meetings between Lobov and Malignaggi during the promotion leading up to Saturday's fight in Florida, but little of it carried over into the ring. And none of it was on display after the fight, as Malignaggi immediately bowed to Lobov and the two talked and embraced.
Each had his reasons for why the fight wasn't as exciting as expected. Malignaggi said that he thought he broke his hand, perhaps in the second round of the five-round affair, while Lobov was a bit baffled by the way the referee was so quick to break up his clinch work, which is allowed under bare knuckle boxing rules.
“I knew he was a tough guy. He’s experienced; he won like 50 fights. I knew this was not going to be easy. I was a little bit surprised with the way the referee kind of worked the clinch. He was on top of me right away, trying to break up the clinch," Lobov stated.
"If you look at some of the boxing fights, even in the boxing fights where the clinch is not allowed, they allow people to work a little longer in the clinch than they did in this where the clinch is allowed. The one time where Paulie’s talking about where I caught him and I was landing shots and then the ref comes on top of me and pulls me off. I’m like what’s going on and he says ‘you’ve got to be landing shots’ and I’m like what the f--- was I doing do you think? I was landing shots. I was throwing shots."
Not being able to work from the clinch the way he had planned disrupted Lobov's approach, although he eventually was awarded a unanimous-decision victory.
"That was a big part of my game plan. Get him in the clinch and work him there and I really wanted to push him against the ropes. Because the ropes here are really hard, almost like a cage, so I was going to do like we do in MMA," Lobov explained.
"Push him against the cage, get good position, get the under hook and then land some shots but the referee didn’t allow me to do that for some reason. I was a little bit surprised."
"I’m pretty sure I broke my hand in the second," Malignaggi said, although he still felt like he had won the fight. "But even after that I felt like I boxed him pretty well. 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)."
As for all of the explosive encounters before the fight fading away so quickly, Lobov boiled it down to the idea that, apart from what was said or done, Malignaggi, a former world champion boxer, showed up to fight.
"I said this before, for me I will always respect the fighter that shows up. Paulie showed up to the spar. If you were to offer the same thing to many other boxers, they probably wouldn’t show up to the spar but he did and he did a full 12 rounds twice and he showed up again today. I take my hat off to him. He’s always been a fighter and he still is."