LAS VEGAS — Two short videos show UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor sparring with former super lightweight and welterweight boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi, and in one McGregor drops Malignaggi with a punch and catches him with a clean straight left hand.
A controversy erupted last week when Malignaggi left McGregor’s Las Vegas training camp and returned home to New York when a picture of their sparring leaked on the Internet. Malignaggi was helping McGregor prepare for his Aug. 26 mega-bout against the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather.
The still photo appeared to show Malignaggi dropped by a McGregor punch. Malignaggi was angry and said he had controlled the sparring and that McGregor had violated protocol by releasing the image.
McGregor said he did not release the photo that led to the controversy and had only released a photo of himself with both hands behind his back as he was sparring Malignaggi. He said he did that because Malignaggi had previously said he could beat McGregor with one hand tied behind his back.
The clip of the knockdown video is 10 seconds. In it, McGregor, wearing the black headgear with his back to the canvas, lands a left hand as they’re fighting in the center of the ring. They were fighting in close and McGregor lands a short right behind the left as Malignaggi tumbled to the canvas.
The second video is 14 seconds left. About 10 seconds into it, McGregor lands a strong straight right hand that snaps Malignaggi’s head back. Malignaggi is wearing the yellow head gear.
McGregor then follows that with a combination as Malignaggi stumbles into the ropes.
In an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto in July, Malignaggi acknowledge McGregor hit hard.
“He’s got some pop in the left hand, I can’t take that away from him,” Malignaggi told Okamoto.
But relations between the two broke down and Malignaggi ripped McGregor several times. McGregor dismissed Malignaggi out of hand on Friday.
“It shows the weakness; it shows his character, in my opinion,” McGregor said of Malignaggi’s criticisms. “He was looking for an exit. The spars were not good for him. He took a lot of head trauma. Straight after, we were worried. The sparring partners were actually telling us when he was struck by the left hand, he was actually stumbling around going to his car out in the parking lot. He was knocked down. He was flattened against the ropes. Multiple times, the ropes kept him on his feet.
“We were worried about him and thought the worst was about to happen to him. He was certainly badly concussed.”
To be sure, the video is only sparring, and a brief clip of sparring at that, but it does at least back up McGregor’s contention.
Malignaggi, who is supposed to commentate on the pay-per-view broadcast for Showtime, hasn’t spoken after an initial series of interviews because Showtime recommended he stop doing interviews.
But the ball is in his court now.