It’s no secret that Paulie Malignaggi has bad blood with Conor McGregor, so it’s no surprise that he isn’t expecting much from the Irishman in his bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. “Here’s the problem with this fight. Khabib is not a guy that will put you out of your misery,” Malignaggi recently told SiriusXM Boxing hosts Randy Gordon and Gerry Cooney.
“Remember the Nate Diaz fight [at UFC 196], when [McGregor] shot in on Nate Diaz and got submitted? Nate Diaz is a guy you don’t want to wind up on the ground with, because he’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and he’ll submit you right away. If you’re gonna fight against Nate Diaz you’re gonna have to keep the fight standing up. In that fight, he’s getting pummeled in round two and he’s probably gonna get pummeled for the rest of the fight. So what does he do? He needs a way out of it because he doesn’t want to get beat up for four straight rounds. If I take this fight to the ground, Nate will submit me and it won’t look like I quit…But really the decision was made when he shot in, that he was quitting already.”
McGregor suffered the first — and only — loss of his UFC tenure thus far against Diaz at UFC 196 in March 2016. The SBG Ireland representative shot for a takedown after being wobbled in an exchange in the second round. From there, Diaz defended the attempt and eventually transitioned to a rear-naked choke to secure the tapout. McGregor rebounded to avenge that defeat with a majority decision triumph over Diaz in a rematch at UFC 202.
Malignaggi doesn’t expect McGregor to get off as easily against Nurmagomedov, a wrestler known for his smothering top control and ground-and-pound. The Dagestani claimed the vacant lightweight crown with a five-round verdict over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 in April. Prior to that, he had back-to-back dominant triumphs over Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson and is unbeaten in 26 professional fights overall.
“Khabib is not the kind of guy that’s known as a submission guy. Now I’m not a mixed martial arts expert, but Khabib is more of a ground-and-pound guy, which means you don’t have the option to be submitted. Khabib will just keep you on the ground and punish you and beat you and beat you and beat you,” Malignaggi said. “Granted Conor has some skills standing up a little bit and Khabib is maybe going to have a little bit of a hard time getting him to the ground. But if this fight winds up on the ground, it’s only a beating for Conor.
“So how is a guy with no balls going to take a beating for five rounds when he looks to quit as soon as he gets uncomfortable? That’s really the question of the hour for his next fight.”
Of course, Malignaggi has bad blood with McGregor stemming from their brief time together as sparring partners. The “Notorious” one brought Malignaggi into his camp as he prepared for a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather last year. However, things went south when the Irishman posted a picture of himself standing over a fallen Malignaggi following a sparring session. Malignaggi then left the camp and fired back, claiming that he “beat [McGregor’s] ass” and the picture was a result of a push. UFC President Dana White later posted footage of the session, which only fueled the “push vs. knockdown” debate.
The bad blood had Malignaggi angling for a future boxing match with McGregor, but interest surrounding such a bout seems to have subsided as the ex-UFC champ prepares for his Octagon return. Still, it’s clear that Malignaggi doesn’t have much respect for the man with which he once briefly shared a ring.
“He’s gonna look for a way out of that fight [with Nurmagomedov] too. There’s no way he’s not,” Malignaggi said. “Just look at round five of the Diaz rematch, he’s literally running for his life. Who does that? With the fight hanging in the balance, who runs the entire final round? And he was given a decision in a close decision that could’ve gone either way. He takes that chance though?
“Again, these are all character flaws of a man with no balls. When you’re a fighter you can tell right away who’s got character and who doesn’t. This guy has none. He has to play it up in other ways so he covers up the fact that he has no balls.”
.@PaulMalignaggi tells @CommishRandyG and @gerrycooney that Conor McGregor will look for an excuse to quit against Khabib Nurmagomedov at #UFC229, much like he did in the first Nate Diaz fight.@MMAonSiriusXM pic.twitter.com/OvKY7oUAE9— SiriusXM Boxing (@SiriusXMBoxing) August 14, 2018